Messier 32 (also known as NGC 221 and Le Gentil) is a dwarf elliptical galaxy about 2.65 million light-years away in the constellation Andromeda. M32 is a satellite galaxy of the famous Andromeda Galaxy (M31) and was discovered by Le Gentil in 1749. M32 measures only 6.5 ? 0.2 kly in diameter at the widest point. Like most elliptical galaxies, M32 contains mostly older faint red and yellow stars with practically no dust or gas and consequently no current star formation. It does, however, show hints of star formation in the relatively recent past.
The structure and stellar content of M32 is difficult to explain by traditional galaxy formation models. Recent simulations suggest a new scenario in which the strong tidal field of M31 can transform a spiral galaxy into a compact elliptical. As a small spiral galaxy falls into the central parts of M31, most of the outer layers of the smaller spiral are stripped away. The central bulge of the galaxy is much less affected and retains its morphology. Tidal effects trigger a massive star burst in the core, resulting in the high density of M32 we observe today. There is also evidence that M32 has an outer disk.