The Meathook galaxy has been torn apart by a supernova

Illustration for article titled The Meathook galaxy has been torn apart by a supernova

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.

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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 . . .

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Illustration for article titled The Meathook galaxy has been torn apart by a supernova

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

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DISCUSSION

I don't think the article is saying that the supernova distorted the galaxy's shape.

It says that interactions with other galaxies distorted the Meathook Galaxy (awesome name, astronomers), and that we recently saw a supernova in the smaller arm. It doesn't draw any sort of causal link between the supernova and the shape, though.

Besides, if a supernova powerful enough to distort a whole galaxy were to occur, it would take millions of years for the distortion to happen, since the force of the supernova would travel slower than the speed of light, and even small galaxies are tens of thousands of light years across. So if we just saw the supernova, then we can't be seeing its effects on the rest of the galaxy.

Sorry to nitpick - I do think it's a cool article and set of pictures - but I just wanted to clarify.