Team of astronomers discover largest known spiral galaxy - that's five times the size of the Milky Way - by accident
NGC 6872, is the biggest spiral galaxy seen yet
Friday 11 January 2013
A spiral galaxy system that spans more than 522,000 light-years has been identified by a team of astronomers.
The spectacular spiral galaxy, NGC 6872, is the biggest yet seen.
Astronomers earmarked the galaxy using archival data taken from Nasa's Galaxy Evolution Explorer (Galex) satellite.
NGC 6872 ranked among the biggest stellar systems for decades, but the new analysis has now crowned it the largest known spiral.
The discovery indicates that the galaxy is five time the size of the Milky Way galaxy.
The team of astronomers say that a comparatively recent collision with another galaxy could be causing one of the outer arms of the spiral to spawn fresh stars that may eventually create a new galaxy.
The team of astronomers from Brazil, Chile and the US were led by lead scientist Rafael Eufrasio who presented the findings on Thursday at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Long Beach, California.
"It's been known to be among the largest for two decades, but it's much larger than we thought," explained Mr Eufrasio.
"The galaxy that collided with the [central disc of NGC 6872] splashed stars all over the place - 500,000 light years away."
Mr Eufrasio told the BBC that the team had made the discovery by accident saying: "I was not looking for the largest spiral - it just came as a gift".
The Galex space telescope was designed to search for ultraviolet light that newly born stars put out, it was that feature that hinted that NGC 6872 was made much larger in size by a collision.
The two galaxies are located around 212 million light-years from Earth.
- 1 What marriage would look like if we actually followed the Bible
- 3 The Chinese city where men have 'three girlfriends because there are so many women'
- 4 'Heartbreaking' Syria orphan photo wasn't taken in Syria and not of orphan
- 5 Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 250,000 back our campaign
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees
£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...
£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...
£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...
£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...