NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope Snapped the “King of Galaxies,” UGC 2885

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UGC 2885 is an enormous barred spiral galaxy of type SBc in the constellation Perseus. As its name implies, a barred spiral galaxy is a spiral galaxy with a bar through the center, having a well-defined bar across the center, glowing clumps of stars. Its imposing, monstrous size gained it the title of the King of Galaxies.

UGC 2885 is 232 million light-years from Earth and measures 463,000 light-years across, about two and a half times wider than the Milky Way. It also contains ten times more as many stars than our home galaxy, making it one of the most massive known spiral galaxies. This barred spiral galaxy may be part of the Pisces-Perseus supercluster. The system might be the biggest in the nearby universe with a dormant supermassive black hole at its center.

Researchers at the University of Kentucky are studying the UGC 2885 to find out how the galaxy size increased to such enormous proportions. According to NASA, the extremely large barred spiral galaxy might earn UGC 2885 the nickname “Godzilla galaxy.”

“How it got so big is something we don’t quite know yet,” said Benne Holwerda, an astronomer investigating the sleeping giant. “It’s as big as you can make a disk galaxy without hitting anything else in space.”

More about the “King of Galaxies,” UGC 2885

UGC 2885 is not a newly discovered galaxy, as astronomers know about its existence from several years ago. Astronomer Vera Rubin has measured its rotation back in the 1980s. Hence the reason Holwerda has dubbed the galaxy in her honor, instead of giving it the frightening Godzilla tag. The personal interactions with Rubin also helped her make up her mind.

“The specific cluster number for this uniquely massive spiral galaxy can now be inferred, and we can see if its cluster population resembles quiescent ellipticals or more a scaled-up spiral,” said Holwerda in a tweet followed by: “Vera Rubin was a wonderful person, respected and admired by many in the astronomical community. She was unfailingly encouraging of young scientists. This has been a recurring theme of stories about her that I have heard. But also something I have experienced myself.”

The Rubin galaxy is isolated out there in space. Therefore the question is: How did the system grow so big?

One theory could be that big galaxies could swallow smaller galaxies over time. Take our home galaxy, the Milky Way, for example. Holwerda and his team are working on unveiling all its mystery by analyzing the vast spherical clusters of stars within the galaxy, using images captured by NASA’s Hubble space telescope.

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