Our universe is both massive and fascinating. While we have a pretty elevated view of ourselves as humans, whenever we peer into the cosmos we really see how small we are in compared to the rest of whats out there. The lowest astronomical figures say there are 100 billion galaxies (that’s 100,000,000,000) in the universe, and our Milky Way is only one. Take the Earth – and multiply it times 17 billion. That’s how many Earth-sized worlds exist only in the Milky Way Galaxy. Multiply that times 100 billion galaxies and you have a massive universe, not even counting the stars and non-Earth-sized planets. Here, we focus on some of the most amazing aspects of our universe: galaxies. The masses of stars, planets, debris, dark matter, and more follow some general patterns but sometimes even they break tradition and amaze us, earning them a spot on this list of the strangest and most bizarre galaxies in the universe.
Most of the strange galaxies on this list are known to astronomers by two classifications: the Messier catalog or the New General Catalog. Messier’s catalog was compiled in 1771 by French astronomer Charles Messier as a way to organize the host of cosmic discoveries happening at the time. A particular fan of comets, Messier made the list with his assistant Pierre Méchain to filter out non-comet items. The New General Catalog (NGC) of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars is a collection of various types of deep sky objects compiled by John Louis Emil Dreyer. Numerous revisions have cleaned up the listing, now one of the most comprehensive catalogs to date with 7,840 deep space objects.
From a galaxy which resembles a cosmic sunflower unfolding before our eyes to a hellish-looking mass of gas and matter to violent galactic collisions which seem oh-so-peaceful in still images, here are the 25 Most Bizarre Galaxies in the Universe.
Milky Way Galaxy
Our own Milky Way Galaxy is indeed one of the strangest galaxies in the universe – one of the most impressive too; and that’s not just us feeling proud. Our massive galaxy is home to at least 100 billion planets and up to a trillion stars – some of which are among the oldest in the known universe.
The galaxy cluster IDCS 1426 boasts multiple accolades. Observed by scientists when the universe was less than a third of its age today, IDCS 1426 is the most massive galaxy cluster in the early universe. It also weighs nearly 500 trillion Suns, a number that’s pretty hard for us to realistically imagine. The bright, blue core of gas is the result of galactic collision, sloshing around much as wine would slosh around in a sommelier’s glass before settling.
I Zwicky 18
The galaxy I Zwicky 18 has a host of titles as a starburst galaxy, blue compact galaxy, dwarf irregular galaxy, and one of the strangest galaxies in the universe. Astronomers are still confused by this galaxy which shows star development typical of galaxy formation from the earliest days of the universe. (It’s also strange that a large amount of ionized helium is present, making scientists wonder what is emitting radiation strong enough to kick electrons off their helium atoms.)
NGC 6744 is a large spiral galaxy which astronomers believe is one of the most similar to our own. Located about 30 million light years away, the galaxy’s elongated core and puffy arms are quite reminiscent of our Milky Way.
The galaxy known as NGC 6872 is the second largest spiral galaxy ever discovered. It’s beautiful tail (ironic that it is in the constellation of Pavo, the Peacock) is a stretched arm full of star-forming regions. Since this strange galaxy doesn’t have much free hydrogen, it relies on material pulled from nearby IC 4970 (just above in the picture) for star birth.