Deep imaging of NGC 474 from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope

Image Credit & Copyright: P.-A. Duc (CEA, CFHT), Atlas 3D Collaboration

The multiple layers of emission appear strangely complex and unexpected given the relatively featureless appearance of the elliptical galaxy in less deep images. The cause of the shells is currently unknown, but possibly [they are] tidal tails related to debris left over from absorbing numerous small galaxies in the past billion years. Alternatively the shells may be like ripples in a pond, where the ongoing collision with the spiral galaxy just [to the left] of NGC 474 is causing density waves to ripple though the galactic giant. Regardless of the actual cause, the above image dramatically highlights the increasing consensus that at least some elliptical galaxies have formed in the recent past. NGC 474 spans about 250,000 light years and lies about 100 million light years distant toward the constellation of the Fish (Pisces).

For more details and links see the original APOD article from which the image and text are taken. Update: A great article from Scientific American on the trillion-year lifetimes of the lowest mass stars.


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