Image Credit: Robert Gendler

This beautiful mess of a galaxy, called NGC 1313, is the perfect object to ring in the new year with. Found about 15 million light-years from Earth in the constellation of Reticulum, NGC 1313 is still forming new stars despite the fact that it was ripped apart.

Speaking of, NGC 1313 is an anomaly in that regard: in  most cases, galaxies are only obliterated to such an extreme degree by gravitational encounters; Yet this galaxy appears to be singular, with no suspicious neighbors in sight.

Regardless of how it got this way, it has several peculiar and fascinating characteristics. Most prominently are its lopsided, undefined spiral arms, which only vaguely connect to its equally wonky central bar. Both sections feature extremely bright nebulae. Most of which are accompanied by supershells, places where hot, energetic stars have carved their own little niche out of surrounding gas and dust.  They can be seen in red, while the green(ish) color represents regions with an abundance of ionized oxygen (they often give away the position of embedded star clusters).

All in all, this galaxy spans just 50,000 light-years across, making it approximately half the size of the Milky Way.

See a larger image here.


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