NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has captured a stunning pair of two face-on galaxies, providing spectacular views of their spiral arms, background stars and galaxies.
The two interacting galaxies, making up the pair known as 'Arp-Madore 608-333', seem to float side by side in this image from the Hubble Space Telescope.
"Though they appear serene and unperturbed, the two are subtly warping one another through a mutual gravitational interaction that is disrupting and distorting both galaxies. Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys captured this drawn-out galactic interaction," NASA said in a statement.
The interacting galaxies are part of an effort to build up an archive of interesting targets for more detailed future study with Hubble, ground-based telescopes, and the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope.
To build up this archive, astronomers scoured existing astronomical catalogues for a list of targets spread throughout the night sky.
They hoped to include objects already identified as interesting and that would be easy for Hubble to observe no matter which direction it was pointing.
"Deciding how to award Hubble observing time is a drawn-out, competitive, and difficult process, and the observations are allocated to use every last second of Hubble time available," said NASA.
However, there is a small but persistent fraction of time - around 2-3 per cent - that goes unused as Hubble turns to point at new targets.
Snapshot programmes not only produce beautiful images but also enable astronomers to gather as much data as possible with Hubble, according to the space agency.
The Hubble Space Telescope was launched into low-Earth orbit in 1990 and remains in operation.
(With inputs from IANS)