"We were surprised to find this stunning morphology, which must be very short-lived," Grant Tremblay of the European Southern Observatory said in a news release from the Space Telescope Science Institute. "We've long known that the 'beads on a string' phenomenon is seen in the arms of spiral galaxies and in tidal bridges between interacting galaxies. However, this particular supercluster arrangement has never been seen before in giant merging elliptical galaxies."
Tremblay compared the phenomenon to "two monsters playing tug-of-war with a necklace."
The latest findings are in a paper due for publication in The Astrophysical Journal Letters — and you can find out more from the Rochester Institute of Technology as well as the European Space Agency's Hubble site.