Discovered by Scottish astronomer James Dunlop in 1826, NGC 986 is a spectacular face-on spiral galaxy in the constellation Fornax that is often overlooked thanks to its proximity to the famously rich Fornax galaxy cluster. Located about 56 million light years from Earth, NGC 986 features a central bar-like structure similar to one sported by the Milky Way and about two thirds of all spiral galaxies. Bars are thought to play a role in star formation, helping funnel gas inward from a galaxy’s spiral arms, and may be a temporary phenomena. This image was captured by the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope and the FORS instrument, or FOcal Reducer and low dispersion Spectrograph.
The spectacular aftermath of a 360 million year old cosmic collision is revealed in great detail in new images from ESO’s Very Large Telescope. Among the debris is a rare and mysterious young dwarf galaxy. This galaxy is providing astronomers with an excellent opportunity to learn more about similar galaxies that are expected to be common in the early universe, but are normally too faint and distant to be observed by current telescopes.