Scientists Uncover The Secrets Of Bizarre ‘Frankenstein’ Galaxy

Posted: Jul 12 2016, 1:10pm CDT | by , Updated: Jul 12 2016, 4:44pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News


Scientists Uncover the Secrets of Bizarre ‘Frankenstein’ Galaxy
UGC 1382 appears to be a simple elliptical galaxy (left). spiral arms emerged when ultraviolet part of the spectrum was made visible (middle). It turned out to be a giant galaxy when low density hydrogen gas was incorporated in to the observations (right). Credit: NASA/JPL

Galaxy UGC 1382 turned out to be a spiral galaxy which is younger on the inside than the outside.

For nearly a half-century, UGC 1382 was considered just another typical, small elliptical galaxy lurking in outer space which lacks spiral structure and bulge found in spiral galaxies.  There was nothing new to be discovered in it. Now, using data from powerful NASA telescopes, astronomers have uncovered the secrets of the ‘Frankenstein’ galaxy. 

UGC 1382 is located about 250 million light years away and is possibly formed using spare parts of other galaxies similar to the way Frankenstein monster was constructed. New observations suggest that the galaxy is actually a spiral. It is 10 times bigger than previously thought and unlike most galaxies it is younger on the inside than the outside. 

“Although there have been numerous surveys of the now-defunct elliptical since it was first cataloged in the 1960s, the only indication that it may be an unusual system was in 2009 when another survey indicated that there may be a hint of a rotating hydrogen disk, but it was not followed up,” said co-author Mark Seibert from Carnegie Institution for Science, California.

“UGC 1382 came to our attention while we were looking at star formation in early-type galaxies using NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX). We saw that in the ultraviolent part of the spectrum spiral arms were visible – something you do not expect to see around elliptical galaxies. Naturally, that finding sent us off on a very different path.”

On the basis of new observations, researchers have developed new model of the galaxy, according to which, UCC 1382 turned out to be one of the three largest isolated disk galaxies ever discovered. The galaxy is about 718,000 light-years across. To put things into perspective, it is seven times wider than the Milky Way which itself has a width of 100,000 light years. 

The most surprising thing was the considerable difference in the ages of different components of the galaxy which is usually unobservable in other galaxies.

“The center of UGC 1382 is actually younger than the spiral disk surrounding it,” said Seibert. “It's old on the outside and young on the inside. This is like finding a tree whose inner growth rings are younger than the outer rings.”

Researchers suspect more galaxies like this could exist in the universe but further research is needed to spot them. And those putative galaxies may muster one or two surprises.

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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