A tidally distorted dwarf galaxy near NGC 4449

Rich, R. Michael and Collins, Michelle L. M. and Black, C. M. and Longstaff, F.A. and Koch, Andreas and Benson, Andrew J. and Reitzel, D. B. (2012) A tidally distorted dwarf galaxy near NGC 4449. Nature, 482 (7384). pp. 192-194. ISSN 0028-0836

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NGC 4449 is a nearby Magellanic irregular starburst galaxy1 with a B-band absolute magnitude of −18 and a prominent, massive, intermediate-age nucleus2 at a distance from Earth of 3.8 megaparsecs (ref. 3). It is wreathed in an extraordinary neutral hydrogen (H I) complex, which includes rings, shells and a counter-rotating core, spanning ~90 kiloparsecs (kpc; refs 1, 4). NGC 4449 is relatively isolated5, although an interaction with its nearest known companion—the galaxy DDO 125, some 40 kpc to the south—has been proposed as being responsible for the complexity of its H I structure6. Here we report the presence of a dwarf galaxy companion to NGC 4449, namely NGC 4449B. This companion has a V-band absolute magnitude of −13.4 and a half-light radius of 2.7 kpc, with a full extent of around 8 kpc. It is in a transient stage of tidal disruption, similar to that of the Sagittarius dwarf7 near the Milky Way. NGC 4449B exhibits a striking S-shaped morphology that has been predicted for disrupting galaxies7, 8 but has hitherto been seen only in a dissolving globular cluster9. We also detect an additional arc or disk ripple embedded in a two-component stellar halo, including a component extending twice as far as previously known, to about 20 kpc from the galaxy’s centre.

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01 Dec 2016 12:42
Last Modified:
17 Sep 2023 01:59