Hickson 44 Galaxy Cluster in Leo
We imagine galaxies drifting in the endless sea of space, like isolated universes, stable and timeless.  Yet most galaxies are associated into clusters and superclusters,
constantly interacting, occasionally disrupting each other, and sometimes even merging, with each appearing unique in shape, size, and stucture.  At a distance of 60
million light years in the constellation Leo, the Hickson 44 Galaxy group contains 4 galaxies in a tight group that show this diversity of forms.  At the far left, the elliptical
galaxy NGC 3193 appears as an amorphous conglomeration of stars, lacking any spiral structure.  Elliptical galaxies are relatively inert, composed largely of older stars,
and lacking sufficient interstellar gas or dust to undergo much new star formation.  Therefore, elliptical galaxies also lack the red glowing hydrogen alpha regions,  the
blue-white clusters of newly formed stars, and dark dust lanes that enrich images of spiral galaxies.

The bottom center of the image is the tighly wound spiral galaxy NGC 3190, tilted only 8 degrees from edge on.  Its central dust lane is warped by gravitational
interaction with nearby galaxies.  Above center is spiral galaxy NGC 3187, with gravitaional forces stretching the edges of its sprial arms into tidal tails  On the right is
the barred spiral galaxy NGC 3185.

Move the cursor over the image to see evidence of gravitational interaction with faint intergalactic strands of stars sheared from NGC 3190 towards NGC 3193.

This image combined 125 minutes of luminence, unbinned, with 40 minutes of red, 35 minutes green and 50 minutes of blue exposures, binned 2x2.  An ST10XME
camera was used through a Meade 12" LX200R and an AP reducer at the Hidden Lake Observatory.
Music:  Time Warp, from Rocky Horror
click on image for full size