Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2012 March 4
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Warped Spiral Galaxy ESO 510-13
Image Credit: Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), C. Conselice (U. Wisconsin/STScI) et al., NASA

Explanation: How did spiral galaxy ESO 510-13 get bent out of shape? The disks of many spirals are thin and flat, but not solid. Spiral disks are loose conglomerations of billions of stars and diffuse gas all gravitationally orbiting a galaxy center. A flat disk is thought to be created by sticky collisions of large gas clouds early in the galaxy's formation. Warped disks are not uncommon, though, and even our own Milky Way Galaxy is thought to have a small warp. The causes of spiral warps are still being investigated, but some warps are thought to result from interactions or even collisions between galaxies. ESO 510-13, pictured above digitally sharpened, is about 150 million light years away and about 100,000 light years across.

Tomorrow's picture: earth below

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