Image Credit & Copyright: NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.
With Hubble’s 25th anniversary 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.
Roughly 320 million light years away in the queen’s hair is a spectre; a ghost if you will. The queen I’m referring to is Queen Berenices II of Egypt as this galaxy resides in Coma Berenices (Berenice’s Hair). The ghost I’m referring to is obviously this beautiful white face-on barred spiral galaxy that spans about 100,000 light years or about the same size as our Milky Way (though that may be changing).
This galaxy is the brightest member of the 1000-ish galaxies of the Coma cluster of galaxies and it’s still pretty dim and viewing it requires dark skies and large aperture. The rather odd look to this galaxy stems from the fact that, though it has star formation occurring, there’s just very little of it. They actually catalog these types of galaxies as “anemic.”
And just wow! As with the previous Hubble images that I detailed this week just look at those background galaxies; they’re everywhere! Once again, at least to me, Hubble delivers something in simple image form that conversation and imagination struggle mightily to deliver.
This image was the 2009 version (that I prefer) there’s a newer 2013 version by Hubble as well that I’ll show below (I’ll put the links at the bottom as well).
Just a couple quick random facts before we close; the constellation Coma Berenices is one of the few constellations names for an actual historical figure. It used to be an asterism in the constellation Leo (The Lion) before it seized some of the Lion’s habitat apparently for her hair which legend has it; she sacrificed to Aphrodite as her husband was away in Syria. This constellation also holds the location of the north galactic pole. South galactic pole is in Sculptor, the galactic center is in Sagittarius and the galactic anti-center resides in Auriga.
Let’s think about that time period as well; 320 million years ago. We are seeing this galaxy as it looked and in the position it was in back when the very first reptiles appeared on Earth during the Carboniferous Period and only about 50 million tears after the first forests appeared. I’m glad photons don’t experience time because that would be a long boring ride. ALSO: Did you know as T-Rex lived about 68 million years ago and Stegosaurus lived about 150 million years ago we are actually living closer to the time of T-Rex than Steggy did?!
NAME: NGC 4921 or UGC 8134.
WHAT IS IT?: Barred spiral galaxy.
HOW BIG IS IT?: Roughly 100,000 light years in diameter.
HOW FAR AWAY IS IT?: Roughly 320 million light years away.
APPARENT MAGNITUDE?: A very dim 13.
WHERE IS IT? (GENERAL): Constellation Coma Berenices (Berenice’s Hair) and a prominent member of the Coma Cluster of Galaxies.
WHERE IS IT? (EXACT RA/DEC J2000): RA 13h 01m 26.1s / DEC +27° 53′ 09″.
ESA Hubble page for this 2009 image: http://www.spacetelescope.org/images/heic0901a/
ESA Hubble News page for this 2009 image: http://www.spacetelescope.org/news/heic0901/
NASA Hubble 2013 version: https://www.nasa.gov/content/hubble-sees-anemic-spiral-ngc-4921/