Elliptical M60, Spiral NGC 4647 : Giant elliptical galaxy M60 and spiral galaxy NGC 4647 do look like an odd couple in this sharp cosmic portrait from the Hubble Space Telescope. But they are found in a region of space where galaxies tend to gather, on the eastern side of the nearby Virgo Galaxy Cluster. About 54 million light-years distant, bright M60s simpler egg-like shape is created by its randomly swarming older stars, while NGC 4647s young blue stars, gas and dust are organized into winding arms rotating in a flattened disk. Spiral NGC 4647 is estimated to be more distant than M60, some 63 million light-years away. Also known as Arp 116, the pair of galaxies may be on the verge of a significant gravitational encounter, though. M60 is about 120,000 light-years across. The smaller NGC 4647 spans around 90,000 light-years, about the size of our own Milky Way. via NASA


Arp 116

Arp 116 is a galaxy pair consisting of elliptical galaxy Messier 60 and smaller spiral galaxy NGC 4647. Messier 60 is located about 55 million light years from Earth in the Virgo cluster of galaxies. NGC 4647 is located about 63 million light years away.

Messier 60 is the third brightest galaxy in the Virgo cluster, a collection of over 1,300 galaxies. It has a diameter of 120,000 light years, a mass about one trillion times our sun, and contains one of the most massive black holes ever discovered. NGC 4647 is about two thirds the size of Messier 60 and has a mass about equal to the Milky Way.

Astronomers have tried to determine whether the two galaxies, relatively close to each other, interact, but have not found evidence of stars forming between the two, the clearest sign of interactions between galaxies. However, recent studies have indicated there may be some gravitational interaction between the two.

Image from National Geographic, information from National Geographic and NASA.