My love affair with spiral galaxies is well documented here on this blog. Of course, I’m biased: I live in one.
But some of them demand a little more attention than others, like the oddly off-kilter NGC 2442, aka the Meat Hook Galaxy:
That gorgeous image (click to galactinate, or grab the ginormous 6756 x 5687 pixel version) is from the MPG/ESO 2.2 meter telescope in Chile, and it definitely shows why NGC 2442 is a weird one. The one arm at the bottom is long and stretched out, the top one is thicker and dotted with pink star-forming regions, and the nucleus is way off-center. What the heck happened to this galaxy?
Perhaps a close-up by Hubble will help:
[Note: this image is rotated 180° from the one above.] Again, we see lots of red gas clouds glowing, fired up by massive stars forming in them. Interestingly, to me this view of the galaxy looks like a single bird feather, with the individual vanes arcing down. Those vanes are actually streamers of gas and dust pulled out like taffy from the main arm. Given all this, it’s pretty clear that NGC 2442 suffered a very close pass or even a collision with another galaxy sometime in the relatively recent past.
But what galaxy? Read More