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.
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Found around 4.3 billion light years from Earth, MACS J0416 looks more like what the kids at Woodstock saw while the musicians played. The bright purple and pink colors hide a deeper struggle here, namely that two galaxy clusters are about to collide.
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M60 & NGC 4647 - The galaxy couple
Though most galaxies’ gravitational pulls bring them closer together, there’s no evidence of that with Messier 60 and NGC 4647. But there’s no evidence of them drifting apart either. Like content old lovers, the two galaxies drift together in space, exhibiting only minor tidal interaction between them.
Located nearby to #25, Messier 81 is a spiral galaxy with a supermassive black hole 70 million times greater than the mass of the sun at its center. M81 is home to many short-living but hot-burning blue stars which heat nearby dust as seen in its spiral arms. Gravitational interactions with M82 have seen both galaxies pulling hydrogen gas away from each other, resulting in wispy lines of gas or high amounts of interstellar gas accumulating in their centers, leading to the rapid star formation.
About 600 million years ago, NGC 4038 and NGC 4039 crashed into each other, beginning a massive exchange of stars and galactic matter. Though scientists think the galaxies look like an antennae, it looks to us like it would be better known as the love galaxy.
Amateur astronomers eagerly flock to the Sombrero Galaxy, so named because of its bright nucleus and large central bulge. Add in this spiral galaxy’s easily evident dust lane and it looks like a sombrero in the sky.