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Astronomers Find The Milky Way Has A ‘Twin’ Galaxy That Looks Just Like Our Own


Located 180 light years away, astronomers have spotted a supermassive spiral galaxy that seems to be the Milky Way galaxy’s twin. But, not only does this galaxy look like our own, it also has two satellite galaxies, just like the Milky Way. The discovery caught experts by surprise. 


They say such an arrangement is extremely rare. Dubbed NCG 2718, the mystery galaxy not only looks like our galaxy, but it also contains a pair of orbiting galaxies that look just like the two satellite galaxies interacting with the Milky Way. To understand more about the Milky Way’s twin galaxy, researchers will further study it hoping to learn more about it. But as experts note, it’s an extremely rare discovery.


The spiral Galaxy BGC 2718. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0


If we take a look at the Milky Way Galaxy and the two orbiting galaxies—the large and small Magellanic Clouds—we will notice how these two still have enough gas to spawn NEW stars, unlike many other galaxies which have run out of material.

  

The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds are located 160,00 and 200,000 light years away from Earth. And this is precisely what caught experts by surprise. The arrangement of a giant spiral galaxy like the Milky Way and two orbiting satellite galaxies like the Large and Small Magellanic cloud is extremely rare. This is why researchers from the Yonsei University wanted to see if they could spot the pattern anywhere else in the universe. To their surprise, they did after going through images of around 20,000 smaller galaxies in hopes of spotting a similar cosmic layout. Their search revealed that the massive spiral galaxy referred to as NGC 2718, located in the constellation Hydra eerily resembles the Milky Way Galaxy, and just as our galaxy, has two orbiting galaxies called UGC 4703 and UGC 4703B.


We show the SDSS r−band image of an area around NGC 2718 and its satellites with a field of view of Rain 90×50. Image Credit: arXiv


Experts wrote in their study: ‘Based on the comparison of physical and morphological properties with that of the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds (LMC and SMC), we report that the UGC 4703 pair-NGC 2718 system is probably an LMC-SMC-MW analogue.’ This discovery follows a study from 2011 which found that galaxies with the layout resembling our own are extremely rare in the universe.


Speaking about the study in 2011, Dr. Philip James, a physicist at Liverpool John Moores University who led the study told New Scientist: ‘They have definitely found a better analogue than any of the cases we presented.’


Source: New Scientist


Reference: arxiv.org/abs/1710.09040

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