Faint Dwarf Galaxy Disrupts Nearby Giant Spiral Galaxy

First Posted: Feb 09, 2016 02:03 PM EST

Researchers have discovered that a faint dwarf galaxy might be disrupting the peace around one of its close-by neighbors, which is a giant spiral galaxy. The team of international researchers identified the two objects as NGC 253, which are also known as the Silver Dollar galaxy and NGC 253-dw2 (the recently discovered dwarf galaxy).

Both galaxies are located in the Southern constellation of Sculptor, which is approximately 11 million light-years away from Earth, according to a study. The two galaxies are about 160,000 light-years away from each other.

"The outer regions of giant galaxies like our own Milky Way appear to be a jumble of debris from hundreds of smaller galaxies that fell in over time and splashed into smithereens," Aaron Romanowsky, lead author of the study, said in a news release. "These dwarfs are considered building blocks of the giants, but the evidence for giants absorbing dwarfs has been largely circumstantial. Now we have caught a pair of galaxies in the act of a deadly embrace."

Romanowsky used the Subaru Telescope to locate the faint dwarf galaxy that was disrupting the nearby giant spiral galaxy. The link between these two galaxies has long been a mystery for astronomers, but now researchers have identified new findings about these galaxies. NGC 253-dw2 was initially identified as a faint smudge with the use of an amateur telescope in Chile.

"The dwarf has been trapped by its giant host and will not survive intact for much longer," said Nicolas Martin, coauthor of the study. "The next time it plunges closer to its host, it could be shredded into oblivion. However, the host may suffer some damage too, if the dwarf is heavy enough."

The findings of this study were published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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