Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

Meet NGC 5474: a lovely dwarf galaxy — which I hereby propose we call the "Oyster Galaxy' (it even appears to have a pearl in its center) — found around 21 million light-years from Earth in the Ursa Major constellation.

In an image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope's 'Advanced Camera For Surveys' (ACS), we see this dimulative galaxy, at least by astronomical standards, in unprecedented clarity. Indeed, despite the fact that the galaxy only contains a few billion stars (our galaxy has around 400 billion, while our closest neighbor, the Andromeda galaxy, is known to contain over 1 trillion stars), it still has all the markings — the prominent, well-defined sweeping spiral arms, and the bright central core — of a so-called 'Grand Design Spiral Galaxy' (technically, it's classified as a dwarf spiral galaxy)

Additionally, astronomers know that NGC 5474 isn't all by its lonesome; it's actually a member of a well-known galaxy group, called the Messier 101 Group. More famous members include, rather obviously, I might add, Messier 101, along with the extraordinarily beautiful Pinwheel Galaxy.

Messier 101 has definitely been shaped by its companions, so it's only fair that its influence be exerted on its quaint neighbor, perhaps that's where many of NGC 5474's visible distortions, including the offset central core, came from. Gravitational encounters have certainly reinvigorated star formation activity within the galaxy's confines, creating ripples that propagated from the inside out.

See a larger image here.

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