RSS
A gigantic galaxy shaped like a penguin
It has an egg, too
 

(NASA/ESA/Hubble Heritage Team)

About 400 light years away, tucked away in the constellation Hydra, sit a pair of galaxies unlike any we've seen before. NGC 2936, on the right, looks like a massive, blue-tinged penguin. Its smaller, elliptical companion, NGC 2937, resembles an egg.

Together, the pair are referred to as Arp 142 — named after the astronomer Halton Arp, who was famous for penning a book titled Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies.

The fact that the pair look the way they do isn't a mere coincidence. Astronomers theorize that the gravitational tug of the smaller egg-shaped system is what's responsible for giving its neighbor its bird-like shape. According to NASA, this dynamic is what's warping NGC 2936's "orderly spiral," as its interstellar gas is "strewn out into giant tails like stretched taffy." Eventually, Arp 142 may become a single, supermassive system, a phenomenon we've actually seen before.

By the time the pair do smash into one another, the Earth will likely be long gone — flightless birds and all.

 
|

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week