Galactic Fling


This Hubble Space Telescope image shows galaxy NGC 4485. Located about 25 million light-years away in the constellation Canes Venatici, this galaxy was once a spiral. Now it has an irregular shape, the result of interactions with nearby NGC 4490, which lies out of image to the bottom right of the frame. The pair of galaxies, together known as Arp 269, are putting distance between themselves now, having made their closest approach to each other long ago.

In addition to the warped shape this spiral took on from this close passage with NGC 4490, it sports a trail of bright stars and clumps of gas and dust to the lower right. It is a tenuous bridge stretching some 24,000 light-years across space, the last loose connection between the pair.

There are other vestiges from this cosmic fling. As they passed by each other, vast fields of hydrogen gas were shared between them. The intermixing clouds created waves of new star formation, the progeny of this cosmic romance. The starburst activity is ongoing, with the newest stars forming within the orange knots of gas and dust.

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA


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