Posts Tagged ‘Coma Berenices’

Insectoid Head of Stars


An insect-shaped head emerges from the jumble of stars in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope of irregular dwarf galaxy DDO 190.

Explore the crowded jumble of stars. What pictures or stories do you see? Leave a note in the comments below.

DDO 190 is called a dwarf irregular galaxy because it lacks clear structure. Unlike a spiral galaxy, like our own Milky Way Galaxy, DDO 190 has no spiral arms. Starting from the outskirts of the small galaxy, older, reddish stars dominate the scene. But as we move inward, younger, blue stars begin to appear. Pockets of glowing gas, areas where new stars are being created, dot the entire galaxy. The most noticeable of these is the butterfly-shaped area at the bottom (what makes the mouth of our head in my imagination).

Scattered throughout the image look for more distant galaxies; galaxies with more regular spiral or elliptical shapes and indistinct shapes.

DDO 190 is within the Messier 94 galaxy group but it is fairly alone in its area of space. While our Milky Way has many companions, such as the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, and the relatively nearby Andromeda Galaxy at two million light-years away, DDO 190 is alone. The closest galaxy to this tiny dwarf galaxy is thought to be no more than three million light-years away. DDO 190, discovered by Canadian astronomer Sidney van der Bergh in 1959, is found about 9 million light-years from Earth toward the constellations Canes Venatici (Hunting Dogs) and Coma Berenices (Queen Berenice’s Hair).

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Super S

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

A super “S” traces through sprawling arms of spiral galaxy M100 in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Zoom into the swirling dusty lanes, pink nebulae and blue supergiants in this image. Leave a note in the comments below telling your stories of this image. The entire starry alphabet spelled out with Hubble imagery can be found here.

Astronomers consider M100 to be a classic example of a grand design spiral galaxy; the ideal spiral galaxy. Similar to our own Milky Way Galaxy, spiral galaxies have bright cores that are probably home to a supermassive black hole. These black holes suck up material. As this gas and dust falls toward the center, it glows brightly.

As you travel from the bright nucleus out along the dust lanes that make up the spiral arms, look for patches of reddish nebulae. These regions are similar to the nearby Orion Nebula. Their pink color come from glowing hydrogen gas, perfect fuel for creating new stars. Blue patches within the spiral arms are groups of young, hot and massive blue stars. These new stars will probably live short lives exploding in supernovae after they quickly burn through their hydrogen fuel. As these stars explode, their shockwaves will push new material together to form new stars. One such bubble is found to the right of the nucleus.

M100 is found just 50 million light-years from Earth toward the dim constellation Coma Berenices, the hair of Queen Berenice from Greek mythology. The sparkling stars have also been related to the end of the tail of Leo, the Lion.

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An Island Universe

Credit: The Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI/NASA)

A majestic face-on spiral, known as NGC 4911, is an island universe amid a thousand other galaxies in this deep image by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

Explore the dark dust lanes of NGC 4911. Glowing pink clouds of hydrogen and newborn star clusters silhouette the dark lanes of gas and dust. The pink clouds, similar to the Orion Nebula, show that NGC 4911 is still an active star producer. New, blue stars glow at the fringes of the spiral arms. On your way to exploring the background galaxies of varying shapes and sizes, follow the faint extended spiral arms. NGC 4911 is part of a large group of galaxies called the Coma Cluster. The cluster is dominated by giant elliptical galaxies as well as dwarf ellipticals.

NGC 4911 is found deep within the Coma Cluster of galaxies about 320 million light-years from Earth toward the northern constellation of Coma Berenices, the hair of Queen Berenice.

Galaxy Mice

Credit: NASA, H. Ford (JHU), G. Illingworth (UCSC/LO), M.Clampin (STScI), G. Hartig (STScI), the ACS Science Team, and ESA

Galaxies dance. At least these two are circling each other in a mouse and mouse game. Astronomers nicknamed these colliding galaxies The Mice because of their long streaming tails of stars, dust and gas. 300 million light years away toward the constellation Coma Berenices, these galaxies are called NGC 4676. They collided 160 million years ago.

The blue streams, forming the mouse tails in the image, are areas where hot, new stars are being born.

Eventually the pair will form a single giant galaxy. These galaxies give us a glimpse of what might happen billions of years from now when our Milky Way Galaxy collides with our neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy (M31).

Hubble Space Telescope took the images used to make this one image in 2002.

Translucent Giant

Credit: NASA, ESA and K. Cook (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, USA)

A sky full of stars and galaxies is dominated by the translucent giant spiral galaxy called NGC 4921 in this image from NASA‘s Hubble Space Telescope. It has taken light from NGC 4921 about 320 million years to reach our eyes on Earth. Galaxies in the rich background are even more remote stretching back to the early Universe.

Explore the image and the stunning background. What do you notice?

NGC 4921 bears some resemblance to other spiral galaxies including our Milky Way Galaxy. But instead of distinct, sweeping spiral arms with bright areas of star formation, NGC 4921 has a smooth swirl of dust almost devoid of gas. It glows like a giant, translucent jellyfish. Look close, and you may notice a ring of bright blue between the galaxy’s core and edge. Hubble’s sharp vision shows us the new, blue stars clearly. This delicate swirl of color is the only tell-tale sign of new star formation. Astronomers refer to this as an “anemic” galaxy where few stars are formed.

NGC 4921 is part of the Coma Galaxy Cluster in the constellation Coma Berenices, the hair of Queen Berenice. The rich cluster, also known as Abell 1656, is one of the closest collections of galaxies with more than 1,000 members; most of them elliptical galaxies. Galaxies in crowded clusters often undergo many collisions and mergers. These interactions strip spiral galaxies of their plentiful gas and dust. Gas and dust are essential for star formation. Eventually after bumping and colliding, astronomers believe spiral galaxies evolve into larger elliptical galaxies with less new star formation.

Far beyond NGC 4921, we see thousands of remote galaxies of all sizes, shapes and colors. While some of the far-off galaxies have spiral shapes, others are uneven and ragged. These galaxies formed in an earlier universe before the graceful spirals and giant elliptical galaxies formed.


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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