This gorgeous image of the Meathook Galaxy captures the bizarre distortion in what was once a spiral galaxy. But a recent supernova, combined with ancient encounters with other galaxies and birthing stars, has given it this strange S shape.

The Meathook Galaxy is about 50 million light years away from Earth. ESO explains:

The Meathook Galaxy, or NGC 2442, has a dramatically lopsided shape. One spiral arm is tightly folded in on itself and host to a recent supernova, while the other, dotted with recent star formation, extends far out from the nucleus. The MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope and the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have captured two contrasting views of this asymmetric spiral galaxy . . . This broad view, taken by the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at La Silla, Chile, very clearly shows the double hook shape that gives the galaxy its nickname. This image also captures several other galaxies close to NGC 2442 as well as many more remote galaxies that form a rich backdrop . . .


A close-up image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope focuses on the galaxy's nucleus and the more compact of its two spiral arms. In 1999, a massive star at the end of its life exploded in this arm in a supernova . . . By the time of this image the supernova itself had faded and is not visible.

Read more about the technology that allows us to see the Meathook Galaxy so clearly via ESO