We've seen all manner of optical illusions over the past few years, involving everything from three-headed deer to rotating horses (via countless objects that appear to be moving but definitely aren't moving). Just when it feels like we've seen them all, another first pops up. Like this one. It's in space!
The Hubble Space Telescope has captured a phenomenon known as Galactic Overlap, in which two galaxies – both more than a billion lightyears away from Earth – appear to have combined to create a sort of super-galaxy. Yep, it's one of the most far-out optical illusions we've seen.
According to the European Space Agency (ESA) (opens in new tab), the galaxies, catchily named SDSS J115331 and LEDA 2073461, aren't actually colliding. Like "ships that pass in the night," they're simply brushing past one-another (and in reality, they're no doubt wildly far apart).
The image comes from Galaxy Zoo, a "massive citizen science project which crowdsources galaxy classifications from a pool of hundreds of thousands of volunteers." And over the course of the project, galaxies have been observed 'interacting' several times. Check out the gallery below for some more images from the Hubble Space Telescope featuring galaxies appearing to make contact.
But the new photo, dated 5 September 2022, is easily the clearest vision yet of two spiral galaxies colliding – and a testament to the increasing capabilities of the Hubble Space Telescope. It would have made our best camera roundup if it wasn't 43.5 feet long and floating in space.