Looking Up: Very, Very Spinteresting

Jun 12, 2017

Well over a thousand galaxies are known members of the Virgo Super Cluster of Galaxies.
Credit & Copyright: Rogelio Bernal Andreo / nasa.gov

This week on Looking Up we learn about the “Dark Galaxy VIRGOHI21", located in the constellation Coma Berenices. 

There is something very strange in the Southern Colorado sky right now – the very odd Coma Pinwheel galaxy. Located in the constellation Coma Berenices, this galaxy is a face-on spiral, but it’s a weird one. 

First, it has one spiral arm that winds away from the galaxy’s core fairly normally. But the other arm appears to have been ripped much farther out into space, perhaps by getting too close to a fellow member of the Virgo Super-Cluster of galaxies – a neighbor galaxy mysteriously named the “Dark Galaxy VIRGOHI21! Sounds like a Star Wars villain!  The good news is that in a few billion years, the arm will tighten up, as the Dark Galaxy speeds off into space.

In addition, apparently the Coma Pinwheel isn’t too social, because it is zooming away from us at a speed of over 5.3 million miles per hour! And, as it rotates around its core, it is going, well, backwards relative to most galaxies. So if you are looking for a vacation spot that is flying through space, spins backwards, and has a really messed up arm, consider popping over to the Coma Pinwheel Galaxy.

If you’d like to take a closer look at the Coma Pinwheel or any of the wonderful and amazing things in the sky, please visit csastro.org for a link to information on our monthly meetings and our free public star parties! 

This is Hal Bidlack for the Colorado Springs Astronomical Society, telling you to keep looking up, Southern Colorado!

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