Snaking Stars

Credit: ESA/NASA Hub­ble

Stars swirl around the bright core of barred spi­ral NGC 1073 in this image from the NASA/ESA Hub­ble Space Telescope.

Zoom across the broad bar of this galaxy. What shapes or sto­ries do you see? Leave a note below. Do you see two snakes chas­ing each other?

The coolest thing about this galaxy besides being so gor­geous is that astronomers believe it looks a lot like our home, the Milky Way Galaxy. Images like this help astronomers learn more about our galaxy and how galax­ies evolve.

NGC 1073 shows the a nor­mal cen­tral struc­ture com­mon in barred spi­rals. Sci­en­tists believe that the star-filled bars form as waves of mate­r­ial sweep gas toward the galac­tic core. This gas helps cre­ate new stars. As we travel from the core out­ward, notice the color of the stars. The cen­ter is dom­i­nated by older yel­low and red col­ored stars. At the edge of the galaxy, young hot blue stars are cre­ated among vast pink clouds of inter­stel­lar gas sim­i­lar to the Orion Nebula.

NGC 1073 is found about 60 mil­lion light years from Earth toward the con­stel­la­tion Cetus, the sea mon­ster. While it has taken light from the galaxy a long time to reach our eyes on Earth, 60 mil­lion light-years is fairly close in astro­nom­i­cal terms. This image gives us a look at a deeper look into the Uni­verse. Galax­ies peek through the dust of the closer NGC 1073. Hub­ble also spies some­thing even more dis­tant. Three bright points of light in this image are not nearby stars but quasars. Quasars are incred­i­bly bright. They are also among the most dis­tant objects in the Uni­verse. They are bil­lions of light-years from Earth. Super-hot mat­ter falling into super­mas­sive black holes cre­ates their bril­liant light.

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The ancient peo­ples saw pic­tures in the sky. From those pat­terns in the heav­ens, ancient sto­ry­tellers cre­ated leg­ends about heroes, maid­ens, drag­ons, bears, cen­taurs, dogs and myth­i­cal crea­tures…
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