Even from the edge, spiral galaxies are beautiful

The viewing angle actually makes a big difference to what we can learn about a galaxy.


The discs of spiral galaxies are utterly lovely things to behold, and we can learn a lot about their structure and how they form by looking at them from the flat side, or on an oblique angle. But, as a new image released by the European Southern Observatory attests, you can also learn a lot by looking at them from the side -- and they're gorgeous from any angle.

This is NGC 1055, a spiral galaxy located some 55 million light-years away in the large northern hemisphere constellation of Cetus (The Sea Monster). It's about 115,800 light-years in diameter, which is comparable in size to our own Milky Way galaxy (100,000 light-years).

According to the ESO, this angle allows astronomers to study key features that are difficult to see when looking directly at the disc. For example, the height of the disc and the bulge of the core. You can also see how the stars are distributed, overall, and the direction material stretches away in the vertical plane around the edges of the galaxy.

You can also see how NGC 1055 is slightly warped and buckled. This is likely because of its interactions with Messier 77, or NGC 1068, another spiral galaxy with which it forms a binary system. Messier 77 is only separated from NGC 1055 by a distance of about 442,000 light-years.

If you want a wallpaper-sized version of this image, you can grab it here.