Spitzer spots a sideways galaxy in infrared

The lightsaber looking galaxy lives 44 million lightyears away
By | Published: August 16, 2019 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
The force seems to be strong in this galaxy far, far away. NGC 5866 sits 44 million lightyears from Earth, and, from our vantage point, looks uncannily like a Star Wars-worthy lightsaber. NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope recently captured the picture, catching the galaxy exactly edge-on.

Astronomers see most galaxies head-on, but NGC 5866 just happens to be positioned in a way that it appears to us as a straight line, rather than a spiral or ellipse. Spitzer sees in infrared light, and because of the dust surrounding the galaxy, NGC 5866 glows red, giving it the appearance of a Sith-like lightsaber. 

Due to its orientation, it’s hard for astronomers to learn much about this galaxy, but they can gather clues. For example, the galaxy’s ring of dust is very flat, indicating that it likely hasn’t collided with any other galaxies during its life.