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NGC 4631 and NGC 4656 - Whale and Hockey Stick Galaxies


NGC 4631 and NGC 4656


NGC 4631 (the Whale Galaxy), which is located near the lower left corner of this image, is an edge-on spiral galaxy 25 million light-years distant in the constellation Canes Venatici. This galaxy's slightly distorted wedge shape gives it the appearance of a herring or a whale, hence its nickname. NGC 4631 contains a central starburst, which is a region of intense star formation. The strong star formation is evident in the emission from ionized hydrogen and interstellar dust heated by the stars formed in the starburst. NGC 4631 has a nearby companion dwarf elliptical galaxy, NGC 4627, shown below NGC 4631 the image above. NGC 4631 and NGC 4627 are part of the NGC 4631 Group, a group of galaxies that also includes the galaxy NGC 4656/57, located near the upper right corner of this image.

The hockey stick-shaped NGC 4656 is another distored galaxy. Its distinctive shape is due to a recent gravitational interaction with the galaxy NGC 4631. The bright knot on the east of this galaxy has been assigned the separate NGC number NGC 4657 (as William Herschel had cataloged it separately).

Exposure Data

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© 2015 Walter Koprolin