Have you ever seen a bright star photobombing an image taken from space? It is easy to miss, but if you look closely at the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope capture of Arp 263, an irregular galaxy located 25 million light-years away in the constellation Leo, you will find an unexpected sight.
The bright star BD+17 2217 is seen photobombing the image. But what is so special about Arp 263? As it turns out, it formed from the merger of two galaxies and is home to various regions of recent star formation. It is therefore an exciting subject for astronomers, as it provides insight into cosmological events such as galaxy formation and evolution.
To better understand Arp 263, two separate investigations were conducted using Hubble’s cameras: the Wide Field Camera 3 was used to search for remnants of a supernova explosion detected in Arp 263 over a decade ago; and the Advanced Camera for Surveys was used to make detailed observations of this peculiar galaxy.
Upon closer inspection of BD+17 2217, you will notice two sets of crisscrossing diffraction spikes surrounding the star. This is due to light interacting with Hubble’s internal structure, resulting in four prominent spikes for this bright object. The fact that two sets of spikes are visible in this image shows that it was created with data from two different Hubble orientations.
So next time you’re looking up at the night sky, take a moment to appreciate the wonders that rest beyond our atmosphere, like Arp 263 and its stellar photobomber BD+17 2217. Who knows what else we can discover by further studying these peculiar galaxies!