Snowflake-Shaped Galaxy From Hubble Helps Ring in the New Year

Jan 18, 2010
NGC 1376 Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) Acknowledgment: Rodger Thompson (University of Arizona)

(PhysOrg.com) -- As part of its Hubble Heritage program, NASA has released an image, taken by a team led by UA astronomer Rodger Thompson, of a galaxy that resembles a snowflake.

A bluish-white hangs delicately in the cold vacuum of space. Like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike. Known as NGC 1376, this snowflake-shaped beauty has features that make it a one of a kind. Bright blue knots of glowing gas highlight regions of active .

Concentrated along the spiral arms, these areas of star formation show an excess of light at for they contain brilliant clusters of hot, newborn stars that are emitting UV light. The less intense, red areas near the core and between the arms consist mainly of older stars. The reddish dust lanes are colder, denser regions where interstellar clouds may collapse to form new stars. Intermingled between the are a sprinkling of reddish background galaxies.

NGC 1376 resides more than 180 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation Eridanus. This galaxy belongs to a class of spirals that are seen nearly face on from our line of sight. This orientation aids astronomers in studying details and features of the galaxy from an unobscured vantage point. One such feature of galaxies are stars that change in brightness over time. In 1990, NGC 1376 was home to a supernova (SN 1990go) explosion that rivaled the brightness of the entire nucleus from ground-based telescopes for several weeks.

How this galaxy came to be photographed by Hubble is quite unique in itself. During observations of a nearby dwarf galaxy in November 2006 with Hubble's Near and Multi-Object Spectrometer, known as NICMOS, careful planning allowed NGC 1376 to be visible in the field of view of the Advanced Camera for Surveys, or ACS, at the same time.

Thus, Hubble was able to get two galaxies for the price of one. Initial ground-based observations of the two galaxies implied that the two might be interacting with each other, but the Hubble observations concluded that there were no obvious signs of interaction. NGC 1376 was imaged with ACS in eight filters ranging from blue to visible to infrared light. Four of the images that show the most color separation were used in this Hubble composite of NGC 1376.

Explore further: Eclipsing binary stars discovered by high school students

Related Stories

Hubble's view of barred spiral galaxy NGC 1672

Apr 03, 2007

NGC 1672, visible from the Southern Hemisphere, is seen almost face on and shows regions of intense star formation. The greatest concentrations of star formation are found in the so-called starburst regions ...

Hubble Snaps Images of a Pinwheel-Shaped Galaxy

Feb 07, 2006

Looking like a child's pinwheel ready to be set a spinning by a gentle breeze, this dramatic spiral galaxy is one of the latest viewed by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Stunning details of the face-on spiral ...

Exploding star in NGC 2397

Mar 31, 2008

NGC 2397, pictured in this image from Hubble, is a classic spiral galaxy with long prominent dust lanes along the edges of its arms, seen as dark patches and streaks silhouetted against the starlight. Hubble’s ...

Stars forced to relocate near the Southern Fish

Mar 03, 2009

About 100 million light-years away, in the constellation of Piscis Austrinus (the Southern Fish), three galaxies are playing a game of gravitational give-and-take that might ultimately lead to their merger ...

Exceptionally deep view of strange galaxy

Feb 05, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- The Coma Galaxy Cluster, in the northern constellation of Coma Berenices, the hair of Queen Berenice, is one of the closest very rich collections of galaxies in the nearby Universe. The cluster, ...

Recommended for you

Swirling electrons in the whirlpool galaxy

11 hours ago

The whirlpool galaxy Messier 51 (M51) is seen from a distance of approximately 30 million light years. This galaxy appears almost face-on and displays a beautiful system of spiral arms.

A spectacular landscape of star formation

17 hours ago

This image, captured by the Wide Field Imager at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile, shows two dramatic star formation regions in the Milky Way. The first, on the left, is dominated by the star cluster NGC ...

Exoplanet measured with remarkable precision

Aug 19, 2014

Barely 30 years ago, the only planets astronomers had found were located right here in our own solar system. The Milky Way is chock-full of stars, millions of them similar to our own sun. Yet the tally ...

New star catalog reveals unexpected 'solar salad'

Aug 19, 2014

(Phys.org) —An Arizona State University alumnus has devised the largest catalog ever produced for stellar compositions. Called the Hypatia Catalog, after one of the first female astronomers who lived in ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

LKD
not rated yet Jan 19, 2010
I wonder what kinds of forces are involved here that are causing these arms to be so angular. I recall Saturn's north pole being like that in a way, but because of the size of the galaxy I would think that would preclude thermal eddies.