Saturday | October 21, 2017
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Subaru scientists discover galaxy with ‘emerald-cut’ shape

Astronomers using the Subaru telescope looking at clusters of stars noticed something unusual at the edge of the image the telescope captured.

It was a rare, rectangular galaxy, the shape of which resembled an emerald-cut diamond, Subaru spokeswoman Suzanne Frayser said.

“This was not their original target,” Frayser said. “It was truly serendipitous.”

Astronomers were using Subaru to look at clusters of stars swarming around Constellation Eridanus, 70 million light years from Earth.

“The combined advantages of Subaru’s large 8.2 m primary mirror and its camera at prime focus gave the researchers such a wide field of view that they could observe objects beyond their intended targets and make the surprising discovery of the emerald-shaped dwarf galaxy,” Subaru officials said in a release about the discovery.

“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,” research paper lead author Alister Graham, of the Swinburne University of Technology, Australia, said.

Frayser said the discovery will allow scientists to learn more about galaxies and how to model other galaxies. Most galaxies are ellipsoidal, disk-like or irregular, she said. The emerald-cut galaxy may resemble an inflated disk, seen from the side.

“One possibility is that the galaxy may have formed out of the collision of two spiral galaxies,” research co-author Duncan Forbes said. “While the pre-existing stars from the initial galaxies were strewn to large orbits, creating the emerald-cut shapes, the gas sank to the mid-plane, where it condensed to form new stars and the disk that we have observed.”