NASA Explains Why Some Galaxies Can’t Always Have A Single Name

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NASA has shared a fascinating photograph featuring three different galaxies. And with that, the space agency has also explained how these galaxies don’t let any “labels define them”. Confused? Let’s unpack. On June 13, NASA posted a photograph of three galaxies — one right in the centre and the other two spotted on the extreme right and bottom of the picture. The photo was captured by the wide-field camera 3 of NASA’s Hubble telescope. Now, let’s understand what makes these galaxies unique. In its Instagram post, the agency said that the galaxy pictured in the middle was “difficult to classify” and the reasons are very interesting.

While it is sometimes classified as a spiral galaxy, similar to our own Milky Way, it is also sometimes classified as a lenticular galaxy,” the agency says. “Lenticular galaxies are a galaxy type that sits between spiral and elliptical varieties.” Now, that makes it more complex, right?

But here’s a simpler way of looking at it. NASA says the galaxies grow just as we do. “While the spiral arms of this galaxy are distinguishable, they’re not clearly defined. Pictured here, the tip of one arm appears to be diffused,” it says.

Galaxies are not static, and their morphologies (and therefore their classifications) vary throughout their lifetimes, says NASA in a separate note published on its website.

“Spiral galaxies are thought to evolve into elliptical. This can happen by merging with one another, causing them to lose their distinctive spiral structure,” NASA says further in its Instagram post, explaining how even the galaxies change their composition with time.

The agency says that the spiral galaxy NGC 4680 in the middle is flanked by two other galaxies as we explained above. Interestingly, NGC 4680 enjoyed a wave of attention in 1997, playing host to a supernova explosion known as SN 1997bp, says NASA.

NASA shared the same picture on Twitter as well and a user wondered if the space agency ever flirted with the idea of sending its astronauts to one of these galaxies.

Another user, though, explained why it was nearly impossible for NASA to undertake any such mission.

Here are some more Twitter reactions to the picture:

The Hubble telescope, which captured the picture, was launched in 1990 as a collaboration project between NASA and the European Space Agency. The telescope has an unobstructed view of the universe.


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