Posted by Alex Urban on August 12, 2011
MILWAUKEE -- As the humble planet Earth sits precariously on a spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy, the Milky Way's galactic neighbour Andromeda has become the subject of much discussion among astronomers both amateur and professional. Andromeda (or M31 as it is known by its Messier catalogue distinction) plays host to at least 14 smaller satellite galaxies. The largest and most well-known of these is the dwarf elliptical M32, followed closely by the galaxy M110. Keen-eyed astronomers have recently noticed that M110, a mammoth collection of billions of stars and planets, has inexplicably gone missing.
The gif appearing below outlines the problem succinctly. An image that serves as the default desktop wallpaper in the recent release of Apple's Mac OS X Lion clearly shows the Andromeda galaxy, but several stars and the entirety of M110 have been wiped from the image entirely. According to UWM astronomer David Kaplan:
Apple has once again altered the Universe according to their whim. They moved or removed many stars, and got rid of a whole galaxy. This is M110, which is one of M31's satellites. The kicker?
The other big satellite, M32, is still there, says Dr. Kaplan with a laugh.
Of course, it is possible M110 has been converted to dark matter or devoured by aliens (a la the planet killer in a classic episode of Star Trek) - in the same way it is possible fishes might spontaneously sprout wings and fly - but the reader can be fairly certain M110 has only been lost to Photoshop.