There are lots of different galaxy formations out there, with spiral being the most common due of the forces of gravity, but others like elliptical and irregular are formed under certain gravitational situations where a spiral would have been disrupted.
These aren’t the only formations however, there are also many others. One that we don’t hear of very often is a tadpole formation, and NASA says that their Hubble Space Telescope has just snapped an image of a rare tadpole galaxy dubbed LEDA 36252 or Kiso 5639.
Image Credit: NASA/ESA
The image was created using a variety of light spectrums, including H-alpha, infrared, optical, and ultraviolet and combining them together to create as detailed of a representation as possible.
The galaxy is noted to be about 2.7 kiloparsecs in diameter, which makes it significantly smaller than the 30 kiloparsecs of our Milky Way galaxy, and it is said to rotate at about 35-40 kilometers per second.
What makes a tadpole galaxy unique is the way it looks. There is a denser and brighter part of the galaxy (known as the head) that is trailed by a much dimmer part (known as the body) such that it actually looks just how you would expect it to – like a tadpole.
In the ‘head’ of the galaxy, much of the matter is made up of brighter, younger stars, as well as hydrogen gas with the mass of about 10,000 of our Suns put together.
The ‘body’ is more comprised of older material and smaller star clusters than the head, but has tons of blue stars in its composition.
There is also reportedly visible evidence of regions in the galaxy where supernova explosions have left gaping holes in the galaxy’s formation.
Tadpole galaxies are so rare that in a sample study of 10,000 galaxies, you would be hard-pressed to find about 20 of them in that sample study.
The European Space Agency notes that they most commonly occur in clusters of galaxies with lower metallicities, which means they’re lower in metallic content. This suggests that they are likely galaxies from our early universe, and lack much of the mass necessary to give the galaxy its swirls caused by gravitation.
Hubble Space Telescope is getting old, but it proves again and again just how useful it is for space exploration. As a result, despite the upcoming launch of the bigger and badder James Webb Space Telescope, Hubble will remain in service for another five years over what was originally planned.