The ringed spiral galaxy NGC 4622. I. Photometry, kinematics, and the case for two strong leading outer spiral arms
The intriguing nearly face-on southern ringed spiral galaxy NGC 4622, the first galaxy definitively shown to have leading spiral structure, is revisited in this paper with new images from the Hubble Space Telescopes (HST) WFPC2, together with ground-based optical and near-IR imaging, and a Fabry-Perot Halpha velocity field. The data provide new information on the disk/bulge/halo mix, rotation curve, star formation in the galaxy, and the sense of winding of its prominent spiral arms. Previously, we suggested that the weaker, inner single arm most likely has the leading sense, based on a numerical simulation. Now, taking advantage of HST resolution and using de Vaucouleurs standard extinction and reddening technique to determine the near side of the galaxy's slightly tilted disk, we come to the more surprising conclusion that the two strong outer arms have the leading sense. We suggest that this highly unusual configuration may be the result of a past minor merger or mild tidal encounter. Possible evidence for a minor merger is found in a short, central dust lane, although this is purely circumstantial and an unrelated interaction with a different companion could also be relevant. The leading arms may be allowed to persist because NGC 4622 is dark halo dominated (i.e., not maximum disk in the inner regions) and displays a significantly rising rotation curve. The new HST observations also reveal a rich globular cluster system in the galaxy. The mean color of these clusters is (V-I)(0) = 1.04, and the specific frequency is 3.4 +/- 0.6. The luminosity function of these clusters confirms the membership of NGC 4622 in the Centaurus Cluster.