Distant galaxies form the backdrop for the Tadpole Galaxy in this image assembled using data from the Hubble Legacy Archive. AKA Arp 188, the disrupted spiral is around 420,000,000 light-years distant in the direction of the northern constellation Draco. Its tail is about 280,000 light-years long and features massive blue star clusters. One theory suggests that a more compact galaxy crossed in front of Arp 188–from right to left in the picture—and was thrown around behind the Tadpole by their gravitational interaction. During the encounter, tidal forces drew stars, gas, and dust out of the Tadpole creating the spectacular tail. The alleged mugger galaxy is now estimated to be about 300,000 light-years behind the Tadpole and can be seen through foreground spiral arms at the upper right. Just like its terrestrial namesake, the Tadpole Galaxy will likely lose its tail as it grows older as the tail’s star clusters form smaller satellites of the large spiral galaxy.
Image Credit: NASA