Stunning images: When galaxies collide

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DENVER -- About 230 million light years away, NASA’s Hubble telescope captured a spectacular image of two galaxies colliding. It turns out this is a rather common occurrence.

“Galaxy collisions happen throughout the universe,” said Ka Chun Yu, curator of space science at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

Yu said it’s how galaxies grow over time.

“Our Milky Way was built up of multiple collisions and mergers,” he said.

Most people think collisions are an abnormality.

“And what’s special about this case is it took Hubble to sort of figure out that this was a pair of galaxies colliding as opposed to being really strange galaxies,” he said.

Galaxies consist mostly of empty space. So when they collide, stars tend to slip through each other. Rarely are stars colliding into one another in the process, Yu said.

The Milky Way is expected to collide with the Andromeda Galaxy in about 4 billion years, which will ultimately alter Earth’s night sky.