Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hubble's view of an 'Island Universe'

The unstoppable Hubble Space Telescope, which celebrated its 20 anniversary in April, released a new image today titled Island Universe. The 28 hour exposure combined data gathered in 2006, 2007, and 2009 of a spiral galaxy some 320 million light years away in the Coma Cluster. The cluster is home to one of the most dense populations of galaxies in our cosmic neighborhood and this close proximity means the galaxies often interact violently. The long wispy formations seen along the arms of the main galaxy in the image are a result of the nearby galaxy in the upper right striping material off as they pass perilously close to each other.

Click on the image for the high resolution version.

From the NASA press release:

"The galaxy, known as NGC 4911, contains rich lanes of dust and gas near its center. These are silhouetted against glowing newborn star clusters and iridescent pink clouds of hydrogen, the existence of which indicates ongoing star formation. Hubble has also captured the outer spiral arms of NGC 4911, along with thousands of other galaxies of varying sizes. The high resolution of Hubble's cameras, paired with considerably long exposures, made it possible to observe these faint details."

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