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Hubble Interacting Galaxy NGC 1614
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Name: NGC 1614, Arp 186, Mrk 0617, II Zw 015
Description: Interacting Galaxies
Position (J2000): RA 04h 33m 59.98s Dec -8° 34' 42.8"
Constellation: Eridanus
Distance: 200 million light-years (50 million parsecs)
Visual magnitude: 12.9
Angular size: 1.3 by 0.9 arcmin
Exposure Dates: August 13, 2002
Exposure Time: 33 minutes
Filters: F435W (B) and F814W (I)
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble      Collaboration, and A. Evans (U of Virginia, Charlottesville/NRAO/Stony Brook      University)
Release Date: April 24, 2008
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ABOUT THIS IMAGE:

The galaxy system NGC 1614 has a bright optical center and two clear inner spiral arms that are fairly symmetrical. It also has a spectacular outer structure that consists principally of a large one-sided curved extension of one of these arms to the lower right, and a long, almost straight tail that emerges from the nucleus and crosses the extended arm to the upper right. The galaxy appears to be the result of a tidal interaction and the resulting merger of two predecessor systems. The system has a nuclear region of quasar-like luminosity, but shows no direct evidence for an active nucleus. It is heavily and unevenly reddened across its nucleus, while infrared imaging also shows a ridge of dust. The linear tail to the upper right and extended arms to the lower right are likely the remains of an interacting companion and the tidal plume(s) caused by the collision. NGC 1614 is located about 200 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation of Eridanus, the River.

This image is part of a large collection of 59 images of merging galaxies taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and released on the occasion of its 18th anniversary on 24th April 2008.

From Wikipedia:

NGC 1614 is the New General Catalogue identifier for a spiral galaxy in the equatorial constellation of Eridanus. It was discovered on December 29, 1885 by American astronomer Lewis Swift, who described it in a shorthand notation as: pretty faint, small, round, a little brighter middle. The nebula was then catalogued by Danish-Irish astronomer J. L. E. Drayer in 1888. When direct photography became available, it was noted that this galaxy displayed some conspicuous peculiarities. American astronomer Halton Arp included it in his 1966 Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies. In 1971, Swiss astronomer Fritz Zwicky described it as a "blue post-eruptive galaxy, compact patchy core, spiral plumes, long blue jet SSW".

In the De Vaucouleurs system for classifying galaxies, NGC 1614 has a galaxy morphological classification of SB(s)c pec. The SB indicates this is a barred spiral galaxy, while the '(s)' means it lacks a ring-like structure around the nucleus. The trailing 'c' describes the spiral arm structure as being loosely wound. The peculiar nature of the galaxy is noted with the 'pec.' abbreviation. The galaxy is bright at the center, with two nearly symmetrical inner spiral arms. It is a luminous infrared source, ranking 55th in the 2003 IRAS Revised Bright Galaxy Sample, and is the second most luminous galaxy within 75 Mpc.

This galaxy is undergoing a minor merger event with a gas-rich, low-mass companion galaxy, located in a tidal tail to the southwest of the nucleus. The main galaxy is estimated to be around 3?5 times as massive as the merging object. The interaction between the two galaxies is triggering a burst of star formation in NGC 1614, although not apparently an active galactic nucleus. It is described as "one of the most extreme nearby starbursts".

In the core region, a 230 pc radius ring feature has formed around the nucleus within the last 5?10 million years from an inflow of gas caused by the merger event, and this structure is the site of the intense star forming activity known as a starburst region. This activity is bright enough that it is masking whatever weak nuclear emission there is coming from the core. The nucleus itself displays evidence of an older starburst event. The starburst activity is presumed to be driving an observed outflow of cold molecular gas that has a combined mass of around 32 million times the mass of the Sun.