This colorful stripe of stars, gas, and dust is actually a spiral galaxy named “NGC 1055,” captured by the European Southern Observatory (ESO)’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, using its Focal Reducer and Low Dispersion Spectrograph 2 (FORS2) instrument. The galaxy is thought to be up to 15 percent larger in diameter than the Milky Way and it’s located approximately 55 million light-years away in the constellation of Cetus (The Sea Monster).
Spiral galaxies throughout the Universe orient in many different ways towards Earth. We see some “from above,” like the NGC 1232, which reveals a galaxy’s flowing arms and bright core, but make it difficult to get any sense of a three-dimensional shape. Galaxies such as the NGC 3521 are seen from an apparent “angle.” These tilted objects begin to reveal the three-dimensional structure, but to fully understand the overall shape of a spiral galaxy, you need an “edge-on” view.
This perspective reveals how the NGC 1055 displays odd twists in its structure. The disc looks slightly bent and ESO researchers believe that’s because of a collision with large neighboring galaxy Messier 77. Another thing the perspective reveals, is the warping of the galaxy. NGC 1055’s disc appears to wave across the core, which probably also is because of the interactions with Messier 77.
That’s a tough time you’re having up there, NGC 1055! But you still look gorgeous.