Arp 263: A Stellar Photobomber Crashes Hubble’s Celestial Gathering

by François Dupont

ESA/Hubble & NASA, J. Dalcanton, A. Filippenko – Credit: Hubble Space Telescope image of the irregular galaxy Arp 263 with the stellar photobomber BD+17 2217.

Within the constellation Leo, located 25 million light-years away, the Hubble Space Telescope has captured a captivating image of the irregular galaxy Arp 263, also known as NGC 3239. However, this astronomical portrait is dramatically hijacked by an unexpected visitor, a stellar photobomber named BD+17 2217. Its luminous presence reveals striking diffraction spikes, a result of the interplay between Hubble’s internal structure and the various orientations during the collection of two separate datasets.

Although Arp 263 remains discreetly in the background of this image, its appearance is eclipsed by the radiant star BD+17 2217. Arp 263, characterized by its patchy and irregular nature, is adorned with regions of recent star formation. Astronomers postulate that its ragged appearance can be attributed to the merger of two galaxies in its cosmic history. Residing approximately 25 million light-years away, Arp 263 holds a position in the vast expanse of Leo.

Two distinctive Hubble investigations, employing the powerful capabilities of the telescope’s third-generation instruments, have contributed their data to this captivating image of Arp 263. The initial investigation aimed to observe the remnants of recent supernovae, including the notable supernova SN 2012A detected in Arp 263 over a decade ago. Using Hubble’s exceptional Wide Field Camera 3, astronomers sought to uncover traces of these colossal stellar explosions. The second investigation forms part of a broader campaign employing Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys, which aims to capture images of previously unobserved peculiar galaxies cataloged by Arp. The gathered data will identify compelling subjects for further examination using the upcoming NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope.

Within this celestial gathering, the foreground star, BD+17 2217, emerges as an interloper. Intriguingly, it showcases two sets of crisscrossing diffraction spikes. The interaction between Hubble’s internal structure and light manifests as four prominent spikes surrounding concentrated bright objects like stars. In the case of BD+17 2217, this image integrates two distinct Hubble datasets, resulting in the convergence of both spike configurations. The angular disparity of the spikes arises from Hubble’s varying orientations during the collection of the two datasets.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about photobomber

What is Arp 263?

Arp 263, also known as NGC 3239, is an irregular galaxy located 25 million light-years away in the constellation Leo. It is characterized by its patchy and irregular appearance, believed to be a result of the merger of two galaxies.

What is the significance of BD+17 2217 in the image?

BD+17 2217 is a stellar photobomber in the image of Arp 263 captured by the Hubble Space Telescope. It is a bright star that steals the spotlight in the image. The star’s unique feature is the crisscrossing diffraction spikes around it, caused by the interaction of light with Hubble’s internal structure and the different orientations during data collection.

What were the two Hubble investigations related to Arp 263?

The first investigation aimed to study the remnants of past supernovae in Arp 263, such as the supernova SN 2012A. Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 was used to search for lingering remnants of these stellar explosions. The second investigation focused on capturing images of previously unobserved peculiar galaxies in the Arp catalog, including Arp 263, as part of a larger campaign using Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys.

How far is Arp 263 from Earth?

Arp 263 is located approximately 25 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation Leo.

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GalaxyWatcher July 18, 2023 - 5:20 am

omg! Arp 263 is so far away! 25 million ly, wow! & that stellar photobomber, bd+17 2217, is so cool! those crisscrossing diffraction spikes are awesome!

StarryEyes July 18, 2023 - 6:21 am

the merger of 2 galaxies formed Arp 263. It looks ragged but beautiful. hubble investigations did gr8 work! i can’t wait for the james webb telescope to study these galaxies more!


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