NASA news: This 'lightsaber' mystery is a sideways galaxy 44 million light-years away

The picture was taken by the space agency’s Spitzer Space Telescope in infrared wavelengths of light. The picture reveals a thin steak of pink light surrounded by a blue glow, much like the famous Jedi weapon in the Star Wars franchise. Unfortunately for Star Wars fans, the picture is a portrait of the distant galaxy NGC 5866. From our viewing angle here on Earth, the galaxy faces us perfectly sideways, giving it an incredibly unusual look in the Spitzer picture

The agency recently shared a similar

NASA said: “This image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope might look like a lightsaber floating in space, but it's actually an entire galaxy viewed on its side. 

“The long red beam in the centre of the image is a galaxy called NGC 5866.” 

The incredible galaxy sits an approximate 44 million light-years or 258,659,520,000,000,000,000 miles from Earth. 

NGC 5866 measures across just slightly more than half the diameter of our Milky Way, at about 60,000 light-years. 


NASA said: “When we think of galaxies, we often imagine massive spiral arms or thick disks of dust. 

“But not all galaxies are oriented face-on as viewed from Earth. 

“From our viewpoint, we see only the edge of NGC 5866, so most its structural features are invisible.” 

In this case, NASA’s Spitzer telescope has the benefit of being able to peer into the galaxy in infrared light. 


The red glow emitted by the horizontal galaxy is a result of this and reveals infrared wavelengths emitted by stellar dust. 

When cosmic dust absorbs light from the nearby stars, the light is cast back out into space at longer wavelengths, including infrared. 

From this picture, NASA has learned the galaxy has a very flat disk of gas surrounding the outer parts of the galaxy. 

According to the space agency, these dusty rings are sometimes created as a result of two galaxies merging. 


There are, however, no signs galaxy NGC 5866 ever collided with another body – unlike

NASA said: “Trying to learn about the history and shape of NGC 5866 is challenging due to its orientation. 

“Our view of this galaxy is somewhat like our view of the Milky Way galaxy: Because Earth lies inside the Milky Way, we can see it only edge-on rather than face-on. 

“But our proximity to the rest of the Milky Way has allowed astronomers to reconstruct what our galaxy would look like viewed face-on.” 

The Spitzer telescope snapped this amazing photo in 2009, during its so-called Cold Mission. 

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