Galaxy blazes with new stars born from close encounter

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The irregular galaxy NGC 4485 shows all the signs of having been involved in a hit-and-run accident with a bypassing galaxy. Rather than destroying the galaxy, the chance encounter is spawning a new generation of stars, and presumably planets.

Galaxy blazes with new stars born from close encounter
Irregular galaxy NGC 4485, captured by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) [Credit: NASA, ESA;
acknowledgment: T. Roberts (Durham University, UK), D. Calzetti (University of Massachusetts)
and the LEGUS Team, R. Tully (University of Hawaii) and R. Chandar (University of Toledo)]

The right side of the galaxy is ablaze with star formation, shown in the plethora of young blue stars and star-incubating pinkish nebulas. The left side, however, looks intact. It contains hints of the galaxy’s previous spiral structure, which, at one time, was undergoing normal galactic evolution.




The larger culprit galaxy, NGC 4490, is off the bottom of the frame. The two galaxies sideswiped each other millions of years ago and are now 24,000 light-years apart. The gravitational tug-of-war between them created rippling patches of higher-density gas and dust within both galaxies. This activity triggered a flurry of star formation.

This galaxy is a nearby example of the kind of cosmic bumper-car activity that was more common billions of years ago when the universe was smaller and galaxies were closer together.




NGC 4485 lies 25 million light-years away in the northern constellation Canes Venatici (the Hunting Dogs).

This new image, captured by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), provides further insight into the complexities of galaxy evolution.

Source: ESA/Hubble Information Centre [May 16, 2019]

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