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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