Featured Image: A Looping Stellar Stream


This negative image of NGC 5907 (originally published in Martinez-Delgado et al. 2008; click for the full view!) reveals the faint stellar stream that encircles the galaxy, forming loops around it — a fossil of a recent merger. Mergers between galaxies come in several different flavors: major mergers, in which the merging galaxies are within a 1:5 ratio in stellar mass; satellite cannibalism, in which a large galaxy destroys a small satellite less than a 50th of its size; and the in-between case of minor mergers, in which the merging galaxies have stellar mass ratios between 1:5 and 1:50. These minor mergers are thought to be relatively common, and they can have a significant effect on the dynamics and structure of the primary galaxy. A team of scientists led by Seppo Laine (Spitzer Science Center – Caltech) has recently analyzed the metallicity and age of the stellar population in the stream around NGC 5907. By fitting these observations with a stellar population synthesis model, they conclude that this stream is an example of a massive minor merger, with a stellar mass ratio of at least 1:8. For more information, check out the paper below!


Seppo Laine et al 2016 AJ 152 72. doi:10.3847/0004-6256/152/3/72