NGC 4438

Sky at Night Magazine - - THE VIRGO GALAXIES -

Look­ing out into the cos­mos, the dis­tances to even the near­est gal­ax­ies can seem im­mense, and yet spi­ral gal­ax­ies col­lide fre­quently. As two gal­ax­ies ap­proach, their grav­i­ta­tional in­ter­ac­tions cause them to dis­tort each other.

You can get a sense of what hap­pens when spi­ral gal­ax­ies en­gage this way if you look into the con­stel­la­tion of Virgo – specif­i­cally within Markar­ian’s Chain. In the chain are two gal­ax­ies – known as The Eyes – that lie roughly 50 mil­lion lightyears from us. The pair are cat­a­logued as NGC 4438 and NGC 4435, and deep im­ages of NGC 4438 show a con­torted jum­ble of scat­tered dust lanes and rib­bon-like streams of stars around a brighter, cen­tral re­gion. As­tronomers think that what we’re see­ing in NGC 4438 is ac­tu­ally a spi­ral galaxy that’s been dis­rupted by a vi­o­lent en­counter with the el­lip­ti­cal galaxy M86, which now sits less than 0.5º away on the sky.

Stare into the abyss and the abyss stares back: NGC 4438 and 4435 form a pair­ing known as The Eyes

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