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Astronomers Find A Galaxy Of Unusual Size (G.O.U.S.), And Discover Why It Exists

14 Jan 2020, 15:01 UTC
Astronomers Find A Galaxy Of Unusual Size (G.O.U.S.), And Discover Why It Exists
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This galaxy, UGC 2885, also known as Rubin’s galaxy, is the largest spiral galaxy ever discovered at approximately 800,000 light-years in diameter. It is truly a G.O.U.S.: a galaxy of unusual size. (NASA, ESA, AND B. HOLWERDA (UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE))It’s one thing to find a galaxy that “shouldn’t exist.” It’s quite another to learn why it does.Above a certain size, spiral galaxies shouldn’t exist. A single major merger — where two galaxies of comparable mass interact to form a larger one — will almost always destroy that spiral structure, producing a giant elliptical instead. The only ultra-large spiral galaxies we typically find are in the process of gravitationally interacting with a neighbor, producing an extended but temporary “grand spiral” structure.But for every rule, there are remarkable exceptions. One particular galaxy, known unofficially as Rubin’s Galaxy after Vera Rubin’s observations of the rotational properties of UGC 2885, is far larger and quieter than practically any other spiral galaxy known. This is a spiral galaxy of unusual size, a true G.O.U.S., and while it doesn’t quite defy our theories of how galaxies form, it certainly is a challenge to explain. Remarkably, just from observing the right details, astronomers now think they know ...

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