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The galaxies of The Antennae, NGC 4038-39

Tags: galaxy, spiral, nebula, dust, emission

NGC 4038 and 4039 are the well-known pair of interacting galaxies that show two broadly curved tails of stars, the 'antennae', extending a considerable distance from the action. This distinctive display is seen on deep images and gives the structure its popular name and seems to have distracted attention from the interacting galaxies themselves. It is possible that one of the two disc galaxies involved was a 'gas-less spiral' (S0), because the most southerly of the pair is distinctly yellow, while the outer parts its companion are bluer. The colour picture reveals the burst of star formation triggered by the encounter, the large numbers of pink emission nebulae in the inter-galaxy region and the location of the numerous dark, brownish-yellow clouds of dust. The yellow nuclei of the two galaxies are also still visible in the colour picture as separate entities.

Made from "Tek 1" CCD RGB data obtained by Steve Lee and David Malin in March 1997
Top left is NE. Image width is about 24 arc min.

© Australian Astronomical Observatory