NASA recently shared a bizarre photo of a galaxy cluster in space that strangely resembles a penguin that was watching its egg. According to NASA, the shapes of the galaxies were caused by their powerful gravitational interaction.

The subject of NASA's latest image is known as Arp 142, which features two interacting galaxies. It lies about 352 million light-years from the planet in the constellation Hydra.

Shaping The Galaxies of ARP 142

ARP 142
This image of distant interacting galaxies, known collectively as Arp 142, bears an uncanny resemblance to a penguin guarding an egg. NASA-ESA/STScI/AURA/JPL-Caltech

Within Arp 142 are two different galaxies. The larger one with an odd shape is known as NGC 2936, while the smaller one with a bluish colour is called NGC 2937. According to NASA, NGC 2936 used to look like a standard spiral galaxy. However, due to the intense gravitational pull of its neighbour, its shape became distorted, causing it to look like a cosmic penguin in space.

NGC 2937, on the other hand, is filled with old stars, which provide the galaxy with its bright glow. Like NGC 2936, NGC 2937's gravitational interaction with its neighbour is also distorting its shape. However, due to the number of stars scattered across this galaxy, these distortions are not directly visible.

Collision Of Arp 142's Galaxies

As noted by NASA, the gravitational pull between these two galaxies will eventually result in a massive galactic collision. Once this happens, NGC 2937 and NGC 2936 will merge with one another. Since the egg-looking NGC 2937 appears to be more densely packed and filled with stars, some of these stellar objects could get thrown out during the collision.

NASA explained that as the two galaxies merge, their contents, mainly composed of dust and stars, will interact with one another. The agency noted that the merger could serve as a significant event in the universe, just like how Milky Way was formed.

"Eventually these two galaxies will merge to form a single object, with their two populations of stars, gas and dust intermingling," NASA explained in a statement. "This kind of merger was likely a significant step in the history of most large galaxies we see around us in the nearby universe, including our own Milky Way."