To mark Halloween, NASA and the European Space Agency have released an image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope showing two galaxies of equal size in a collision that appears to resemble a ghostly face.

The image was captured on 19 June in visible light by the telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys.

Although galaxy collisions are common, especially in the early universe, most are not head-on impacts like the collision that likely created this Arp-Madore system, 704 million light-years from Earth.

This violent encounter gives the system an arresting ring structure, but only for a short amount of time.

The crash has pulled and stretched the galaxies’ discs of gas, dust, and stars outward, forming the ring of intense star formation that shapes the "nose" and "face" features of the system.

Ring galaxies are rare, and only a few hundred of them reside in our larger cosmic neighbourhood.

The galaxies have to collide at just the right orientation so that they interact to create the ring, and before long they will have merged completely, hiding their messy past.