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Corkscrewing through the cosmos, three distant galaxies collide in a stunning new image captured by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

This cosmic crash is known as a triple galaxy merger, when three galaxies slowly draw each other nearer and tear each other apart with their competing gravitational forces. Mergers like these are common throughout the universe, and all large galaxies — including our own, the Milky Way — owe their size to violent mergers like this one.

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