There are moments when I think that science exists purely to blow my puny human mind. Take galaxy NGC 4622, for example. For years now, astronomers have wondered about the fact that it seemed to be moving in reverse, spinning towards the direction of its spiral arms instead of away from them. Now a new analysis of images of NGC 4622 has revealed that there's more to the galaxy than thought. Namely, it may be deformed because it swallowed another galaxy.
I'll say that again, in case you missed it: Scientists have found a galaxy that might have swallowed another galaxy. The further analysis of images of NGC 4622, you see, revealed that the galaxy actually has another set of arms inside the center, arms that trail in the opposite direction to the known arms. According to New Scientist, that got them thinking:
Scientists still do not understand how the galaxy got its oppositely oriented arms. One possibility is that the inner arms are the result of a struggle with a smaller galaxy that veered perilously close to NGC 4622 and was swallowed. Before being ripped to shreds, the smaller galaxy could have stirred up matter in NGC 4622's inner regions, leading it to settle in a spiral pattern opposite to that in the outer regions.
It's as if the universe saw the last Fantastic Four movie, got upset at their take on Galactus and decided that it could come up with something much more impressive and with a bigger appetite. Of course, this now makes me more optimistic at our odds of finding a real-life Silver Surfer, so it's not all bad news.
Image courtesy NASA
Galaxy's spiral arms point in opposite directions [New Scientist]