Image Credit & Copyright: NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.
This incredible image of barred spiral galaxy NGC 6217 was the first image by the Hubble space telescope after completion of STS-125 Atlantis’s Hubble Servicing Mission 4 (HSM4). This galaxy at 44,000 light years is less than half the diameter of the Milky Way and resides 60 million years into the past.
This structure is very much alive in star formation as seen in the pink regions where stars are coming to life all throughout the two major arms. Those arms are also alive with young bright blue stars creating an amazing color contrast from proverbial head to toe. At the nucleus the telltale sign of yellow ancient stars glows showing traces of gas and dust lanes. It’s this nucleus as with almost all galaxies to include our neighbor, the Andromeda galaxy is all that we see in binoculars and in telescopes. It’s typically tough to see spiral arm features in small to medium sized telescopes unless you have very dark locations.
NAME: NGC 6217.
WHAT IS IT?: Barred Spiral Galaxy.
HOW BIG IS IT?: 44,000 light years in diameter.
HOW FAR AWAY IS IT?: 60 million light years.
APPARENT MAGNITUDE: 11.2.
WHERE IS IT? (General): Constellation Ursa Minor and the asterism of the Little Dipper.
WHERE IS IT? (Exact RA/DEC J2000): RA 16h 32m 39s.2 / DEC +78° 11′ 53″.
NASA Hubblesite News Center page for this image: http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2009/25/image/bc/