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Astronomers spot largest known spiral galaxy by satellite

The barred spiral galaxy NGC 6872 is pictured in this undated NASA handout photo Photo: NASA/Reuters

A team of Astronomers has discovered the biggest known spiral galaxy after spotting the huge system through a satellite signal.

Exploring archival data taken from NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer (Galex) satellite, which is used to monitor star-forming regions, a galaxy named NGC 6872 was earmarked.

The spiral galaxy system spans more than 522,000 light-years according to NASA, which makes it five times the size of the Milky Way galaxy.

The discovery was not expected to be made by astronomers, but the spiral galaxy's ultraviolet lights from young stars reportedly stood out to experts.

Without GALEX's ability to detect the ultraviolet light of the youngest, hottest stars, we would never have recognized the full extent of this intriguing system.

– Lead scientist Rafael Eufrasio from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt

The galaxy's strange size and appearance stem from its relationship with a much smaller galaxy called IC 4970, which has only about one-fifth the mass size of NGC 6872.

The two galaxies are located around 212 million light-years from Earth.

A NASA simulation of the galactic collision suggests the spiral galaxy happened 130 million years ago. Credit: NASA

The find was reported at the American Astronomical Society meeting in the US.