The beautiful edge-on spiral galaxy NGC 3190 with tightly wound arms and a warped shape that makes it resemble a gigantic potato crisp, as seen by ESOs Very Large Telescope.
ESO’s Very Large Telescope, equipped with the multi-mode FORS instrument, took an image of NGC 3190, a galaxy so distorted that astronomers gave it two names. And as if to prove them right, in 2002 it fired off, almost simultaneously, two stellar explosions, a very rare event.
This beautiful edge-on spiral galaxy with tightly wound arms and a warped shape that makes it resemble a gigantic potato crisp lies in the constellation Leo (‘the Lion’)  and is approximately 70 million light years away. It is the dominant member of a small group of galaxies known as Hickson 44, named after the Canadian astronomer, Paul Hickson. In addition to NGC 3190 , Hickson 44 consists of one elliptical and two spiral galaxies. These are, however, slightly out of the field of view and therefore not visible here.
In 1982, Hickson published a catalogue of over 400 galaxies found in compact, physically-related groups of typically 4 to 5 galaxies per group (see the image of Robert’s Quartet in ESO PR Photo 34/05 as another example). Such compact groups allow astronomers to study how galaxies dynamically affect each other, and help them test current ideas on how galaxies form. One idea is that compact groups of galaxies, such as Hickson 44, merge to form a giant elliptical galaxy, such as NGC 1316 (see ESO PR 17/00).
Henri Boffin | alfa
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