GREENBELT, Md., Oct. 12 (UPI) -- European astronomers say the Hubble Space Telescope is providing the best evidence yet that large massive galaxies form by merging with smaller galaxies.
European Space Agency scientists said the new Hubble observations of the radio galaxy MRC 1138-262, nicknamed the "Spiderweb Galaxy," have shown dozens of star-forming satellite galaxies in the process of merging.
Hubble found that the large galaxy 10.6 billion light-years from Earth is merging with smaller galaxies caught in a web of gravity. The ESA said Spiderweb is so distant, astronomers are seeing it as it looked some 2 billion years after the Big Bang.
Astronomers at the Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands say the Hubble images, unprecedented in detail, show galaxies being drawn into the Spiderweb at speeds of several hundred miles per second, from distances of more than a hundred thousand light-years.
The Spiderweb Galaxy, located in the constellation Hydra, is one of the most massive galaxies discovered.
The study appears in the current issue of the Astrophysical Journal.