Stochastic "Beads on a String" in the Accretion Tail of ARP 285

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We present Spitzer infrared, Galaxy Evolution Explorer UV, and Sloan Digitized Sky Survey and Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy optical images of the peculiar interacting galaxy pair Arp 285 (NGC 2856/4), and compare with a new numerical model of the interaction. We estimate the ages of clumps of star formation in these galaxies using population synthesis models, carefully considering the uncertainties on these ages. This system contains a striking example of "beads on a string": a series of star-formation complexes 1 kpc apart. These "beads" are found in a tail-like feature that is perpendicular to the disk of NGC 2856, which implies that it was formed from material accreted from the companion NGC 2854. The extreme blueness of the optical/UV colors and redness of the mid-infrared colors implies very young stellar ages (4-20 Myr) for these star-forming regions. Spectral decomposition of these "beads" shows excess emission above the modeled stellar continuum in the 3.6 μm and 4.5 μm bands, indicating either contributions from interstellar matter to these fluxes or a second older stellar population. These clumps have -12.0 < M B< -10.6, thus they are less luminous than most dwarf galaxies. Our model suggests that bridge material falling into the potential of the companion overshoots the companion. The gas then piles up at apogalacticon before falling back onto the companion, and star formation occurs in the pile-up. There was a time delay of 500 Myr between the point of closest approach between the two galaxies and the initiation of star formation in this feature. A luminous (M B -13.6) extended (FWHM 1.3 kpc) "bright spot" is visible at the northwestern edge of the NGC 2856 disk, with an intermediate stellar population (400-1500 Myr). Our model suggests that this feature is part of a expanding ripple-like "arc" created by an off-center ring-galaxy-like collision between the two disks.