NASA Image of the Day: Collapse of NGC 3169

Galaxy mergers are a common fate for all galaxies in the Local Group.

What do we see in today’s NASA image?

The spiral galaxy NGC 3169 appears to be unraveling like a ball of yarn. This galaxy is located at a distance of 70 million light-years from us, to the south of the bright star Qalbal Asad in the dim constellation Sedes. Due to the gravitational interaction between NGC 3169 (left) and its neighbor NGC 3166, the entwined spiral arms are drawn into the tail, eventually merging into a single galaxy. This is a common fate for local group galaxies. The open stellar arcs and plumes imply the ongoing gravitational interactions of this galaxy group, which are clearly visible in the image.

This image spans about 20 arc minutes, or 400,000 light-years, which is the approximate distance of this galaxy group, and includes the smaller, blue galaxy NGC 3165 on the right. The spectrum of NGC 3169 ranges from radio to X-ray. This galaxy has an active core with a very massive black hole inside.

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