Largest Known Spiral Galaxy is Five Times Bigger Than the Milky Way

NASA and the European Southern Observatory have worked together to produce the above image of NGC 6872, the largest known spiral galaxy in the uni82 verse. The massive galaxy measures more than half-a-million light-years from end to end, which is more than five times larger than Earth's own Milky Way galaxy.

Alongside the NGC 6872 galaxy is a smaller disc galaxy, IC 4790, which closely interacts with the larger spiral. Researchers believe that the two galaxies may be interacting in unexpected ways to create what may be a new nascent galaxy in the area.

The nascent galaxy may have started forming after a collision between NGC 6872 and IC 4790. Such a collision, believe scientists, could have also jumpstarted star formation in NGC 6872 after it had once slowed.

By combining visible light data from the ESO's Very Large Telescope with ultraviolet and infrared data from NASA's Spitzer telescope and GALEX program, astronomers are hoping to continue learning more about the ways that the two galaxies interact, and what the interactions could teach us about galactic formation.