[CLICK ON IMAGE FOR HIGH RESOLUTION, Wolfgang Ries / Stefan Heutz (Astrokooperation)]
Their distorted appearance is due to gravitational tides as the pair engage in close encounters. Cataloged as Arp 273 (also as UGC 1810), the galaxies do look peculiar, but interacting galaxies are now understood to be common in the universe.
In fact, the nearby large spiral Andromeda Galaxy is known to be some 2 million light-years away and approaching the Milky Way.
Arp 273 may offer an analog of their far future encounter. Repeated galaxy encounters on a cosmic timescale can ultimately result in a merger into a single galaxy of stars.
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