A galaxy refers to a huge system of stars, planets, gas, and dust that are gravitationally bound together. Our solar system, for instance, is part of the Milky Way galaxy, which is though to contain more than 100 billion other stars, and according to curent estimates the universe in its entirety is thought to contain upwards of two trillion different galaxies.
Most galaxies fall into well defined classifications, and are either spiral-shaped like the Milky Way, elliptical, or irregular shaped. However, there are some galaxies that defy all attempts at classification. While some strange and bizarre galaxies are the result of gravitational interactions with other more massive, and sometimes less massive objects, they all have one thing in common; they look more like artists’ impressions than real, tangible collections of billions of stars.
Take a look at the stunning photos below credited to the NASA image gallery, are they straight out of science fiction, or are they galactic marvels? You decide.
The Black Eye Galaxy (M64)
Type: Spiral Galaxy
Constellation: Coma Berenices
If it is possible for a galaxy to take on an evil aspect, M64 does it perfectly. Although colorful galaxies are plentiful, this one is strongly reminiscent of the garish pulp science-fiction magazine covers of the 1950’s. The red color is derived from hydrogen, which means that new stars are being formed in very large numbers, but what is really strange is that the objects consists of two contra-rotating systems. The inner part of the system rotates in one way, while the stars and dust in the outer parts to a distance of about 40,000 light years rotate in the other direction. At a distance of 17 million light years from earth, it is of course difficult to tell, but it seems likely that the contra-rotation of the two systems is the result of a recent (1 billion years or so) merger between two galaxies.