An unusual galaxy merger boasts multiple interwoven arms in a newly released Hubble Space Telescope image.
This multiarmed galaxy, known as CGCG 396-2, lies about 520 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Orion. It represents a galaxy merger, which occurs when two or more galaxies collide.
The galaxy was detected with Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys as part of a larger initiative called the Galaxy Zoo project, according to a statement from the European Space Agency (opens in new tab) (ESA).
Related: Hubble telescope spies gorgeous galaxy merger (video, photo)
“This observation is a gem from the Galaxy Zoo project, a citizen science project in which hundreds of thousands of volunteers classified galaxies to help scientists solve a problem of astronomical proportions — how to sort through the vast amounts of data generated by robotic telescopes,” ESA officials wrote in the statement.
As a part of the project, volunteers vote on which objects are the most intriguing and warrant further investigation with the Hubble Space Telescope. The galaxy CGCG 396-2 was one such object, selected for its unusual multiarmed structure. Galaxy Zoo and other similar citizen science projects have led to more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific articles and numerous astronomical discoveries, according to the ESA statement.
“By making a web interface and inviting citizen scientists to contribute to the challenge, the Galaxy Zoo team was able to crowdsource the analysis, and within six months a legion of 100,000 volunteer citizen astronomers had contributed more than 40 million galaxy classifications” ESA officials wrote.