Worldbuilding Wednesday 9/7/22: Galaxies

Spiral galaxy airbrushed on the back of a custom van.

Galaxies are one of those things that it’s easy to create a picture of. I remember in the 1970s all an artist needed was an airbrush, one or two pigments, and a fine paintbrush for depicting individual stars. When Photoshop and other painting programs came along, you could do the same thing with digital tools and no mess.

Now, all you need is a text prompt and an AI art engine, as I’ve discovered with these depictions of Jadis/The White Witch and unknown Narnian monarchs. As depictions of humans, they are far from perfect, and you’d never publish them professionally (unless you’re really, really stupid.) But galaxies are less complex than the human figure, and they don’t vary as much. There are no green or purple galaxies, for example, and they are always depicted against a background of black with white stars. You don’t find them laying on the lawn or in a basket of fresh laundry. Plus, there are tons of galaxy photos available online for the AI to learn from.

Left to right: Rearing Cobra Galaxy, Cheerio Galaxy, Swirling Tricycle Galaxy.
(Note: I did have to do some Photoshop fiddling with them to look more realistic.)

The prompts I’ve used here are from the list of imaginary galaxies below, all randomgenned from the typical names, locations, types, and characteristics of galaxies that already exist.  If you are writing any kind of SF, or creating any kind of SF game, and need a galaxy to stick in somewhere, try one of these.

(If you don’t know anything at all about the different types of galaxies, start here.)



Alpha and Omega Galaxy, located in Orion. A large attractive spiral, seen at a 60 degree angle, that has four loosely structured lanes. A starburst galaxy generating many hot young stars.

Black Pizza Galaxy in Chamaeleon, 304 million light years away. A large irregular galaxy that is very luminous, but cloaked by several large dust clouds, one of which appears as the dark triangular “slice” that gives the galaxy its name. This galaxy appears to be forming arms but has no nucleus.

Capricornus NGC4569, a medium-sized spiral galaxy with tightly wrapped arms. Due to a passing encounter with an ultradiffuse dwarf irregular galaxy it has a long tidal tail full of metal-rich stars. Part of the Local Group.

Caterpillar Galaxy, a small satellite of the Milky Way with a fuzzy, stretched-out appearance.

Cheerio Galaxy: Located in Antlia, 57 million light years away. A ring galaxy with a chubby appearance. Its small nucleus is full of supergiant stars.

Chromosome Galaxy, two colliding galaxies seen edge-on and touching so they look like a chromosome or the letter H.

Eta Indi 29, also known as the Orchard Galaxy. A small flocculent spiral galaxy with indistinct arms.

Huygens 255, a distant spiral with a doubled ring structure from a past merger, from which it received a second nucleus and a short tidal tail.

Musca 9, also known as the Fish Galaxy. A medium sized spiral with multiple arms. Though it contains many old red stars it is very luminous due to its overlarge nucleus.

Norma 819, a giant Grand Design spiral galaxy with multiple arms.

Northern Kraken Galaxy in Ursa Major, a large, loose spiral galaxy with arms that look like the tentacles of its namesake. A Seyfert galaxy that is also a strong gamma-ray source.

Rearing Cobra Galaxy in Virgo, a small, loose barred spiral galaxy with two arms that is part of the Local Group. Named for its distinct shape.

Sagittarius 41, also known as the Heavy Hubcap Galaxy. A giant-sized spiral with a weak inner ring structure and bright, well-formed outer rings.

Small Eridanus Galaxy, 574 million light years distant. A small elliptical galaxy that has no nucleus and contains old red stars.

Swirling Cyclone Galaxy in Indus, a medium-sized spiral with two tight, compact arms and a dust lane that is especially dense and dark. A starburst galaxy that has a large halo and at least three hundred globular clusters.

Swirling Tricycle Galaxy in Canis Major, a medium-sized, very perturbed galaxy that resembles its namesake. Merging with another galaxy known as Flamsteed’s Anomaly.

Turtle Galaxy, an ultradiffuse dwarf that has been severely disrupted by the Andromeda Galaxy of which it is a satellite.

Volans Object, 19 million light years distant. A large ring galaxy with a bright center that looks like it is becoming undone, with a long tidal tail of stars on one side and a short tail on the opposite side. Both tails are forming new stars. The entire galaxy is sending off gamma and radio waves.

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