Image Credit: NASA/CFHT/NRAO/JPL-Caltech/Duc/Cuillan

Aesthetically, this galaxy has all the markings of a winner, but beneath its undeniable beauty lies something even more remarkable; the new insight it gives us into the mechanism that drives the highs and lows of galaxy evolution (especially the fervent star forming phase)

The galaxy, called NGC 3226, lurks just 50 million light-years from Earth. It has numerous interesting features, which include gassy, star-filled loops of material, an appreciable 'halo,' and filaments that connect it to its companion, known as NGC 3227. These features signify that there was a turbulent period in the galaxy's history, when it wa destroyed and reforged following a gravitational disturbance..

How turbulent this period was remains unclear, but there is evidence that a third galaxy was involved in the melee. Only this galaxy no longer exists, as it was cannibalized by the larger of the three, leaving bright streamers strewn about the wreckage site.

Additionally, one large filament of leftover material remains. It spans an impressive 100,000 light-years wide, leading straight into the bright central core of NGC 3226, and swooping outwardly into an equally-impressive ring of dust. However, this ring is as fleeting as the wind. Over time, gravity will take over, sucking this cosmic entrail back into the host galaxy.

NGC 3226 also presents many mysteries. NASA explains:

The galaxy still has two seemingly contradictory faces though — a young side pervaded by numerous hot, blue-white stars (seen in blue), and a older one, filled with ruddy-colored stars that have had plenty of time to mature. 

"NGC 3226 will continue to evolve and may hatch abundant new stars in the future," said Appleton. "We're learning that the transition from young- to old-looking galaxies is not a one-way, but a two-way street."

You can learn more here (courtesy of NASA)


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