There is a new computer font available to astronomers: Galaxy. Well, not really, not yet, but at some point there probably will be. The rendition of "Telescope and Sky" shown here was generated automatically by a website called "My Galaxies." Thanks to thousands of volunteers worldwide that have participated in The Galaxy Zoo's project of classifying galaxies, a set of letter-shaped galaxies has been identified that can be used to write words like "telescope and sky." It appears that so far God (or the Big Bang - take your pick) did not create a full set of upper case letter-shaped galaxies. Some letters can be considered upper or lower case, like Cc Ii Jj Oo Pp Ss Uu Vv Ww Xx Zz.
As you might imagine, there are number-shaped galaxies as well. After all, mathematics is the language of the universe. Judging by the shape of the number "1," I'm guessing that particular galaxy is French, possibly in deference to early astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini, who among other accomplishments discovered the gap named after him between the A and B rings around Saturn (Cassini Division).
With the contributions to astronomy made by ancient Greeks, you would think there are galaxies shaped like Greek characters, but evidently not - or at least they have not been identified yet. I input ελληνικά (Greek) and the algorithm was befuddled. Arabic (العربية) seems to thwart its logic as well even though Arabs did a lot of looking at the sky. Before you get all upset at the Universe for seemingly excluding your language's characters, consider that these images are as viewed from the perspective of the Earth's current location relative to everything else. At some point in time past or perhaps sometime in the future maybe those galaxies had different visual shapes or we were looking at them from a different angle. Saturn is a good example of how much difference perspective can make. At certain times during its orbit around the sun the rings are presented edge-on and practically disappear from our vantage point because the planet's rotational axis is tilted with its orbital plane, but at other times, like now, the rings are tilted towards us so they are apparent even with a cheap pair of 8x35 binoculars.
Posted September 12, 2012