Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Emerging Technology from the arXiv

A View from Emerging Technology from the arXiv

Astronomers Discover Rectangular Galaxy

A dwarf galaxy in the constellation of Eridanus resembles an ‘emerald cut diamond’, say discoverers

  • March 20, 2012

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 

Tech Obsessive?
Become an Insider to get the story behind the story — and before anyone else.

Subscribe today
Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe and become an Insider.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}* Best Value

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

  • Insider Basic {! insider.prices.basic !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Six issues of our award winning print magazine, unlimited online access plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Print Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

  • Insider Online Only {! insider.prices.online !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Unlimited online access including articles and video, plus The Download with the top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox.

    See details+

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.