HST observations of the interacting galaxies NGC 2207 and IC 2163
Hubble Space Telescope (HST ) images of the galaxies NGC 2207 and IC 2163 show star formation and dust structures in a system that has experienced a recent grazing encounter. Tidal forces from NGC 2207 compressed and elongated the disk of IC 2163, forming an oval ridge of star formation along a caustic where the perturbed gas rebounded after its inward excursion. Gas flowing away from this ridge has a peculiar structure characterized by thin parallel dust filaments transverse to the direction of motion. The filaments become thicker and longer as the gas approaches the tidal arm. Star formation that occurs in the filaments consistently lags behind, as if the exponential disk pressure gradient pushes outward on the gas but not on the young stars. Numerical models suggest that the filaments come from flocculent spiral arms that were present before the interaction. The arms stretch out into parallel filaments as the tidal tail forms. A dust lane at the outer edge of the tidal tail is a shock front where the Ñow abruptly changes direction. Gas at small-to-intermediate radii along this edge flows back toward the galaxy, while elsewhere in the tidal arm, the gas flows outward.