NASA’s GALEX Reveals The Largest-Known Spiral Galaxy


Spiral Galaxy NGC 6872. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/ESO/JPL-Caltech/DSS

Spiral Galaxy NGC 6872. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/ESO/JPL-Caltech/DSS

The spectacular barred spiral galaxy NGC 6872 has ranked among the biggest stellar systems for decades. Now a team of astronomers from the United States, Chile and Brazil has crowned it the largest-known spiral, based on archival data from NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) mission, which has since been loaned to the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif.

Measuring tip-to-tip across its two outsized spiral arms, NGC 6872 spans more than 522,000 light-years, making it more than five times the size of our Milky Way galaxy.

“Without GALEX’s ability to detect the ultraviolet light of the youngest, hottest stars, we would never have recognized the full extent of this intriguing system,” said lead scientist Rafael Eufrasio, a research assistant at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and a doctoral student at Catholic University of America in Washington. He presented the findings Thursday at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Long Beach, Calif.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/galex/galex20130110.html

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