The Tadpole Galaxy

The Tadpole Galaxy

The Tadpole Galaxy (also known as UGC 10214 or Arp 188) is a disrupted barred spiral galaxy located about 420 million light-years away toward the northern constellation Draco. Its most dramatic features are an incredibly long trail of stars and massive, bright blue star clusters, reflecting the essence of our dynamic, restless and violent Universe.

Its distorted shape was caused by a small intrudor, a very blue, compact, galaxy which crossed in front of the Tadpole Galaxy and was slung around behind the Tadpole by their mutual gravitational attraction. During this close encounter, tidal forces drew out the galaxy’s stars, gas, and dust, forming the conspicuous tail which is more than 280,000 light-years long.

Seen shining through the Tadpole’s spiral arms, the intruder (estimated to lie about 300 thousand light-years behind the much more massive Tadpole) is likely a hit and run galaxy that is now leaving the scene of the accident.

Numerous young blue stars and star clusters, spawned by the galaxy collision, are seen in the spiral arms, as well as in the long tidal tail of stars. Each of these clusters contains up to a million stars and will redden with age to become in time globular clusters similar to those found in essentially all halos of large galaxies, including our own Milky Way.

Two prominent clumps of young bright blue stars are visible in the tidal tale and are separated by a gap. These will likely become dwarf galaxies that orbit the Tadpole when it has lost its tail as it grew older, like its terrestrial namesake.

Behind the Tadpole is another compelling picture: thousands of faint galaxies stretching back to nearly the beginning of time. They are a myriad of shapes and represent fossil samples of the Universe’s evolution.