Using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have obtained a surprising new view of the spiral galaxy UGC 3912.
“UGC 3912 is classified as a spiral galaxy, but you wouldn’t know it from this detailed Hubble image,” Hubble astronomers said.
“The distorted shape of the galaxy is usually indicative of a gravitational encounter with another galaxy.”
“When galaxies interact, either brushing against each other’s gravitational fields or even colliding, their stars, dust and gas can be pulled onto new paths.”
“UGC 3912 may have once been an organized-looking spiral, but it appears to have been deformed by a giant thumb.”
“Fortunately, when galaxies interact, individual stars and the objects orbiting them remain whole even though their orbits can change so dramatically that the shape of the entire galaxy is altered. “
“This is because the distances between stars in galaxies are so great that they do not collide with each other, but simply continue serenely along their new orbits.”
Astronomers are studying UGC 3912 as part of an investigation into supernova activity, when stars at least eight times larger than our Sun explode at the end of their lives.
“Hubble is examining one of several types of supernovae, a hydrogen-rich phenomenon known as Type II supernovae,” they explained.
“Although numerous type II supernovae have been observed, they exhibit enormous diversity in their brightness and spectroscopy and are not well understood.”