This spectacular image from the NASA / ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows the forces behind NGC 2276, a spiral galaxy 120 million light-years away in the constellation of Cepheus. At first glance, the bright spiral arm and the fine treasures of the dark dust lane resemble other spiral galaxies. The closer look reveals a surprisingly unbalanced galaxy shaped by gravitational interactions and dense star formation.
This attractive image shows the unusually connected form of NGC 2276, an appearance caused by two separate astronomical interactions – a superheated gas with vast galaxy clusters and a close galactic neighbor.
The interaction of NGC 2276 – a superheated gas lying between galaxies in galaxy clusters – sparks a burst of star formation at one end of the galaxy. This wave of star formation is visible on the left of this figure as a bright, blue glow of newly formed large stars and gives the galaxy a surprisingly unbalanced appearance. The recent star formation of NGC 2276 is related to the presence of more foreign inhabitants – black holes and neutrons in the binary system.
The other side of this bursting galaxy of new stars, the gravitational pull of a small companion is pulling the outer edges of the NGC out of shape. This interaction with the smaller lens-sized galaxy NGC 2300 distorted the outermost spiral arms of the NGC 2276, giving the false impression that the larger galaxy faces Earth. Both NGC 2276 and its disruptive counterpart NGC 2300 can be seen in the accompanying image, which shows a comprehensive view of the interactive galaxy.
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NGC 2276 is by no means the only galaxy with a strange presence. Atlas of Strange Galaxies – a catalogue of unusual galaxies published in 1966 – management of strange and amazing galaxies with spectacular galaxy attachments, ring-shaped galaxies and other galactic weights. As appropriate for the unusually contracted galaxy, NGC 2276 has the significance of being listed in the Atlas of Twice Strange galaxy – once for its bright spiral arms and once for contact with its small neighbour NGC 2300.