|This diagram shows an unusual galaxy with bent jets (see callout). The galaxy was found with the help of NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope in a filament (purple area) connecting two massive islands of galaxies. The little dots in the diagram are other galaxies. The twin jets of material are bending backwards as they sweep through the hot gas in the filament. (NASA Photo)
LOS ANGELES, Nov. 24 (Xinhua) -- Using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers have caught sight of an unusual galaxy that has illuminated new details about a celestial "sandbar" connecting two massive islands of galaxies, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) reported on Wednesday.
The galaxy has an unusual ratio of radio to infrared light, as measured by the Very Large Array and Spitzer, making it stand out like a beacon, said JPL in Pasadena, Los Angeles.
The discovery shed light on celestial "sandbars," or filaments, which are known to span vast distances between galaxy clusters and form a lattice-like structure known as the cosmic web, JPL said.
Though immense, these filaments are difficult to see and study in detail. Two years ago, Spitzer's infrared eyes revealed that one such intergalactic filament containing star-forming galaxies ran between the galaxy clusters called Abell 1763 and Abell 1770.
Now these observations have been bolstered by the discovery, inside this same filament, of a galaxy that has a rare boomerang shape and unusual light emissions, said JPL.
Hot gas is sweeping the wandering galaxy into this shape as it passes through the filament, presenting a new way to gauge the filament's particle density, according to JPL.
Researchers hope that other such galaxies with oddly curved profiles could serve as signposts for the faint threads, which in turn signify regions ripe for forming stars.
"These filaments are integral to the evolution of galaxy clusters -- among the biggest gravitationally bound objects in the universe -- as well as the creation of new generations of stars," said Louise Edwards, a postdoctoral researcher at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
The astronomers spotted the bent galaxy about 11 million light- years away from the center of the galaxy cluster Abell 1763 during follow-up observations with the WIYN Observatory near Tucson, Ariz. , and radio-wave observations by the Very Large Array near Socorro, N.M.
The WIYN Observatory is named after the consortium that owns and operates it, which includes the University of Wisconsin, Indiana University, Yale University, and the National Optical Astronomy Observatories.