Why is this spiral galaxy all warped out of shape?

Illustration for article titled Why is this spiral galaxy all warped out of shape?

This spiral galaxy is ESO 510-13, located about 150 million light-years away. It's a lot like our own Milky Way, with one crucial difference - the fierce gravity of its neighboring galaxies has warped it into a helix.


As massive quantities of gas and dust coalesce to from spiral galaxies, they normally carve out a relatively flat disc known as the galactic plane. In much the same way that all the planets of our solar system orbit the Sun on roughly the same plane, a spiral galaxy's stars will orbit around the central, supermassive black hole in something very close to a plane. While that's the norm, galaxies like ESO 510-13 are far from unheard of, and this image from the Hubble Telescope gives one of the best views of how spiral galaxies can become warped out of their initial disc.

Astronomers still aren't exactly sure what causes warps like that of ESO 510-13, but it's a very safe bet that other galaxies are somehow involved. The question is whether it's through ongoing gravitational interactions or the aftermaths of intergalactic collisions. Either way, ESO 510-13 is in very good company when it comes to galaxies with warps - our very own spiral galaxy the Milky Way also is thought to have a warp, albeit one much, much smaller than the dramatic one you see up top.



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You know, the more I think about the vastness of galactic structures, the more I think our planet is just a cell nucleus and we're just some enzymes running willy nilly across it's surface. And then, if you zoom out far enough it turns out that every last drop of our Universe is just lodged inside the digestive tract of some four dimensional dog living in a completely different reality.