Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo

 

Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

Galaxies essentially have three different shapes. The vast majority are flattened discs, often with spiral arms; some are ellipsoids, like rugby balls; and a few are completely irregular with no symmetry.  

So the discovery of a galaxy with an entirely different shape is bound to generate a flutter of interest.

Today, Alister Graham at Swinburne University of Technology in Australia and a few mates announce the discovery of a dwarf galaxy designated LEDA 074886 that is distinctly rectangular.  “We affectionately call [it] the “emerald cut galaxy” given its striking resemblance to an emerald cut diamond,” they say.

The galaxy sits in a group of about 250 dwarf galaxies some 21 megaparsecs from Earth in the constellation of Eridanus. It’s just a nipper, with a mass some 10 billion times that of the Sun. By contrast, the Milky Way is about a thousand times heavier.

The obvious question is how did it form. Graham and co think the emerald cut galaxy formed from the merger of two disc galaxies, like a couple of pancakes on top of each other. From the side, this looks rectangular. 

That’s clearly a rare type of event but not entirely unknown. Graham and co say astronomers have discovered seven other rectangular examples out of the many millions of galaxies they’ve catalogued. 

However, we may not have to look far to find another exotic shape. A couple of years ago, astronomers said they’d found evidence that the arms of the Milky Way were straightish, giving our galaxy a distinctly square look, like the Pinwheel galaxy, M101.

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1203.3608: LEDA 074886: A Remarkable Rectangular-Looking Galaxy 

5 comments. Share your thoughts »

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives

Close

Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me