Astronomers spot `emerald-cut` galaxy
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Last Updated: Thursday, March 22, 2012, 18:09
  
Sydney: Astronomers have identified an extremely rare galaxy resembling an emerald-cut diamond, a shape totally unlike any other in existence.

Astronomers from Australia, Germany, Switzerland and Finland discovered the rectangular shaped galaxy within a group of 250 galaxies some 70 million light years away.

"In the universe around us, most galaxies exist in one of three forms: spheroidal, disc-like or lumpy and irregular in appearance," said Alister Graham, associate professor of astrophysics from Swinburne University of Technology, The Astrophysical Journal reported.

He said the rare rectangular-shaped galaxy was a very unusual object. "It's one of those things that just makes you smile because it shouldn't exist, or rather you don't expect it to exist."

"It's a little like the precarious Leaning Tower of Pisa or the discovery of some exotic new species which at first glance appears to defy the laws of nature," added Graham, according to a university statement.

The unusually shaped galaxy was detected in a wide field-of-view image taken with the Japanese Subaru Telescope for an unrelated programme by Swinburne astrophysicist Lee Spitler.

The astronomers suspect it is unlikely that this galaxy is shaped like a cube. Instead, they believe that it may resemble an inflated disc seen side on, like a short cylinder.

Support for this scenario comes from observations with the giant Keck Telescope in Hawaii, which revealed a rapidly spinning, thin disc with a side on orientation lurking at the centre of the galaxy.

The outermost measured edge of this galactic disc is rotating at a speed in excess of 100,000 kmph.

"One possibility is that the galaxy may have formed out of the collision of two spiral galaxies," said Duncan Forbes, study co-author and Swinburne professor.

IANS


First Published: Thursday, March 22, 2012, 17:59


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