Image Credit & Copyright: NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and the Hubble Heritage Team.
With Hubble’s 25th anniversary upon us this week I want to take a few posts and dedicate them to the single most profound scientific instrument ever devised by human hands thus far. Everyone knows the classic Hubble images that, even though we’ve seen many thousands of times, still WOW us. However, I want to post a few of my personal favorites that over the years, still WOW me personally…….I hope you agree.
At first glance you may think of this image as a digital rendering of a rip in spacetime; light from another universe flooding into the tear, alerting the rest of our universe to its presence. The reality isn’t quite that dramatic but it’s still pretty amazing. This galaxy, NGC 5866 is being viewed edge-on from our vantage point in the Milky Way. As we look back 45 million light years ago we can see some interesting things about this star city. First, Hubble gives us incredible clarity in those dust lanes that span the 60,000 light year diameter plane. Its core, like that of our own Milky Way, glows brightly from behind the shroud that the material in those lanes create.
Aside from that, we also see the telltale sight of younger blue stars along the plane indicating that star formation is alive and well while the nucleus is filled will yellow ancient stars. One thing that strikes people when they first see this image is the one thing that they seem to forget once they begin to look around at the other aspects here. Look at just how thin this galaxy is in comparison to its diameter. Keep in mind that it’s not odd at all, this is something that galaxies all throughout the universe display, even ours. None the less…..it’s just amazing to me.
NAME: NGC 5866, M102, Messier 102.
WHAT IS IT?: Spiral galaxy viewed almost perfectly edge-on.
HOW FAR AWAY IS IT?: 45 million light years.
HOW BIG IS IT?: Roughly 60,000 light years in diameter.
APPARENT MAGNITUDE?: A modest 10.
WHERE IS IT? (General): Constellation Draco (The Dragon).
WHERE IS IT? (Exact RA/DEC J2000): R.A. 15h 06m 29s.48 / Dec. +55° 45′ 47″.2.
Hubblesite News Center page for this image: http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2006/24/image/a/
This image on NASA’s APOD: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap060612.html
Spacetelescope page for this image: http://www.spacetelescope.org/images/opo0624a/