NASA astronomers describe NGC 3344 as a “glorious” spiral galaxy around half the size of the Milky Way, which lies some 25 million light-years distant.
The galaxy features an outer ring swirling around an inner ring with a subtle bar structure in the center. Essentially, a bar is an elongated distribution of stars and gas in the center of a spiral galaxy.
The central regions of the galaxy are predominately populated by young stars, with the galactic fringes also featuring areas of active star formation.
Central bars are found in approximately two thirds of spiral galaxies. NGC 3344’s is clearly visible in the image, although it is not as dramatic as in some galaxies.
The high density of stars in galaxies’ central regions provides them with sufficient gravitational influence to affect the movement of other stars in their galaxy.
However, NGC 3344’s outer stars are moving in an unusual manner, although the presence of the bar cannot entirely account for this, leaving astronomers puzzled.
It is possible that NGC 3344 previously passed close by another galaxy and acquired stars from it, but more research is required to confirm this hypothesis.
The galaxy in a spin image was stitched together via a combination of exposures snapped in visible and near-infrared light – with a field of view at approximately 3.4 by 3.4 arcminutes, or around a tenth of the diameter of the full moon.