Hubble has photographed a huge spiral galaxy located about 60 million light-years from Earth. Despite its size, it is far from the largest celestial object known to astronomers.
The photo was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 and shows a spectacular view of the spiral-shaped galaxy NGC 4571 which sits in the constellation of Coma Berenices. NASA notes that this constellation – whose name translates to Bernice’s hair – was named after an Egyptian queen who lived more than 2,200 years ago.
Big, but not nearly the biggest
NGC 4571 is part of the Virgo cluster, and despite its massive size, NASA says it’s far from the largest such structure known to astronomers. For example, Virgo is full of over a thousand galaxies, and this cluster is in turn part of the larger Virgo Supercluster that encompasses the Local Group that contains the Milky Way.
NASA explains that this particular photo comes from an extensive observing program designed to produce a treasure trove of combined observations from two great observatories: Hubble and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA).
ALMA is a large astronomical interferometric radio telescope that consists of 66 high-precision antennas and is located high in the Chilean Andes, specifically 16,000 feet above sea level on the Chanjnator Plateau. It uses its many antannes together to observe at wavelengths between infrared and radio waves. This allows ALMA to detect clouds of cold interstellar dust that give rise to new stars.
“Hubble’s extremely precise observations at ultraviolet wavelengths allow astronomers to precisely pinpoint the location of hot, bright, newly formed stars,” NASA explains. “Together, the ALMA and Hubble observations provide a vital data repository for astronomers studying star formation, as well as laying the groundwork for future science with the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope.”
The second galaxy recently photographed by Hubble
NGC 4571 is the second photo of a galaxy NASA has released this week, the first being the eye-shaped NGC 1097. This first photo was taken using two of Hubble’s cameras, the Wide Field 3 – the same one used to produce the photo above – and the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) which recently had 20 years.
It should also be remembered that the colors seen in these photos are produced using filtersbecause the wide-field camera and the ACS only capture light at a specific wavelength.
Picture credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA, J. Lee and the PHANGS-HST team