ScienceShot: Why Is This Galaxy Lopsided?

A new image of the distant Meathook Galaxy, which gets its name from its dramatically warped profile, reveals widespread patches of glowing gas that betray bursts of star formation. The pinkish and reddish clumps of glowing hydrogen, ionized by the powerful radiation of newborn stars nearby, can be seen across most of the galaxy but are particularly prominent in the longer of the galaxy's two spiral arms, researchers report online today. Astronomers previously have suggested that the asymmetrical shape of the Meathook Galaxy, dubbed NGC 2442 and located about 50 million light-years away in the constellation Volans (also known as the Flying Fish), stems from gravitational interactions with another, as-yet-unidentified galaxy that passed nearby. The same tidal forces that deformed the mass of stars probably disrupted clouds of gas in the galaxy, causing them to collapse and triggering the spate of star birth, the researchers say.

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