Maffei 2 revealed: The infrared morphology of a hidden galaxy

Robert L. Hurt, K. Michael Merrill, Ian Gatley, Jean L. Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


We present near-infrared images in the J, H, and K bands of the starburst galaxy Maffei 2 taken with the NOAO Simultaneous Quad Infrared Imaging Device at Kitt Peak. These images reveal a morphology that is optically hidden by the ∼5 mag of visual extinction at its low galactic latitude (b= -0.3°). In the near-infrared, Maffei 2 can clearly be identified as a barred spiral of revised Hubble morphological type SBb(s) pec. The infrared extinction seen in the nucleus closely matches the known molecular morphology, indicating that such extinction can be a good tracer of molecular cloud complexes along density waves in galaxies. We infer peak extinctions of AV∼ 10 mag, although there are indications the actual extinction may be higher due to saturation effects. There are a variety of peculiarities in the overall morphology of the galaxy including a misalignment of the NE and SW halves of the bar, an eastern spiral arm that is twice as long as the western arm, and an anomalous leading spiral arm seen just north of the NE bar end. These features are taken as indications of a recent interaction with a companion galaxy that could be responsible for producing the nuclear starburst. The anomalous northern arm is identified as a tidal tail that may possibly connect with an interacting dwarf galaxy at the end of the arm.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)121-127
Number of pages7
JournalAstronomical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1993
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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