Very Large Telescope captures two distinctly different galaxies

Not all galaxies are the same, as seen in this new image captured by the VLT of NGC 470 and NGC 474.

Why does the tidy, compact spiral galaxy NGC 470 on the right look so different to its neighbour NGC 474, a shell elliptical galaxy spreading out vastly and fuzzily in concentric rings of stars?

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At least 10% of elliptical galaxies in our Universe have this diffuse, shell-like structure, but the reasons are unknown.

The shells may be ‘ripples’ following a merger with a smaller galaxy, or – since spiral galaxies make up around 72% of the galaxies that have been observed – are they overcoming their wispier cousins?

It may be that NGC 470 has been exerting a powerful gravitational pull on NGC 474 for millennia, slowly pulling it apart.

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Observatory Very Large Telescope

Release date 6 January 2020

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Image credit ESO