Sometimes you just can't see the forest through the trees! A trio of spiral supergalaxies has recently been spotted in the midst of a heavenly ocean of NASA archival images by a group of sharp-eyed astronomers. Catalogued as super spirals, these sensational shining pinwheels hiding in plain sight have more than 10 times the mass of our Milky Way, shine from 8-14 times its brightness and contain 30 times its ultimate star-formation ability. Those are record-busting stats not to be diminished anytime soon.
"We have found a previously unrecognized class of spiral galaxies that are as luminous and massive as the biggest, brightest galaxies we know of," said Patrick Ogle, an astrophysicist at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC) at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, lead author of a new report published in The Astrophysical Journal. "It's as if we have just discovered a new land animal stomping around that is the size of an elephant but had shockingly gone unnoticed by zoologists."
Searching for extremely luminous, massive galaxies in the NASA/IPAC Extragalactic Database (NED), a vast online repository containing info on over 100 million galaxies, Ogle and his team stumbled upon these colossal super spirals sifting across gathered data from many different mapping projects, including UV emissions via the Galaxy Evolution Explorer, visible light from Sloan Digital Sky Survey and infrared light from the Two Micron All-Sky Survey. These gas-rich gargantuans could hold the key to further understanding of their formation and pathways to finding of other, yet-undetected supergalaxies.
"Super spirals could fundamentally change our understanding of the formation and evolution of the most massive galaxies," said Ogle. "We have much to learn from these newly identified, galactic leviathans."