Technology & Science

Boomerang-shaped galaxy sighted

A newly discovered galaxy bent like a boomerang could help explain how galaxies are formed, astronomers say.

A newly discovered galaxy bent like a boomerang could help explain how galaxies are formed, astronomers say.

The team of scientists, led by a Canadian postdoctoral researcher, Louise Edwards, found two massive clusters of galaxies linked by tendrils of cosmic gases known as "filaments."

The images were observed by using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, said Edwards, a Victoria native working with the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

"Filaments are only in the last two or three years being observed," Edwards told the Vancouver Sun. "We thought they existed in theory for a long time, but we're now being able to see them."

The filaments have been described by NASA researchers as cosmic "sandbars" connecting islands of galaxies and are believed to be key sites for the formation of stars.

Inside one of the filaments, the research team caught glimpse of an unusual boomerang-shaped galaxy emitting light in a strange way.

The shape is likely caused by hot gas sweeping the galaxy as it passes through the filament, which has given scientists rare insight into the particle density of the filaments and possible clues to "signify regions ripe for forming stars", a NASA press release explained.

"These filaments are integral to the evolution of galaxy clusters — among the biggest gravitationally bound objects in the universe — as well as the creation of new generations of stars," Edwards said in a release.