While the galaxies in this image seem to be crashing right through one another, they are actually separated by a wide berth.
The photo, taken by the Hubble space telescope, shows a chance alignment of two heavenly objects, making them appear to be in the midst of a bizarre pile-up. But the galaxies, named NGC 3314A and NGC 3314B, are in no danger of crashing. The foreground galaxy — the bluer one that appears face-on to us — is approximately 117 million light-years away from Earth, while the background galaxy is 23 million light-years farther.
Galaxies have crashed into one another relatively often during the universe’s history — larger galaxies are thought to build up from smaller galaxies through such collisions. The energy from these mergers also generates prolific star formation, filling the galaxies with young blue stars.
Our own Milky Way galaxy will hit our neighboring Andromeda galaxy 4 billion years in the future. Learn more here.