Rare 'Rectangular' Galaxy Spotted

'Emerald cut' shape probably the result of two galaxies colliding

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 22, 2012 12:41 AM CDT

(Newser) – The vast majority of galaxies fall into one of three categories—football-shaped, irregular, or a disc with spiral arms. But LEDA 074886 is a strange one. When viewed from our planet, the dwarf galaxy has a strange, rectangular, "emerald cut" shape. Its discoverers believe the galaxy is shaped like a cylinder, and we are seeing it from the side, National Geographic reports. "The alternative shape, a cube, seems too bizarre to contemplate," says the leader of the team that spotted the boxy galaxy.

"It’s one of those things that just makes you smile because it shouldn’t exist, or rather, you don’t expect it to exist," he says. The astronomers believe its shape may be the result of a long-ago collision between two spiral galaxies. They note that if the orientation is right, our own galaxy will end up as part of an "emerald cut" galaxy when it collides with Andromeda some 3 billion years from now.

LEDA 074886 lies in a cluster of 250 galaxies 70 million light years away.   (Alister Graham)
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