Sunday, December 8, 2013
A Beautiful New Image from the Hubble Telescope
Here is a gorgeous picture of a spiral galaxy, which is part of the Coma Cluster of galaxies, roughly 300 million light years away. This galaxy (of billions of stars), like our own, is shaped like a frisbee -- and we are looking at the disk of the frisbee face-on. Its name is just a catalog number: NGC 4921. You can see its huge encircling "arms" of countless stars, blending their light together. And notice a number of clusters of young stars glowing blue, a little distance out from the center.
But what is amazing about this image, if you look at it for a while, is how many OTHER galaxies are visible through and around NGC 4921! All those structures around the galaxy that are not precise pinpoints of light are other great islands of stars -- each containing billions of stars and planets. The cluster of galaxies which NGC 4921 is part of contains more than a thousand galaxies. And there are more galaxies beyond that cluster. Pictures like this help us remember that our problems and disagreements on Earth are such minor issues when seen from the perspective of the universe.
This image, by the way, was assembled from a number of Hubble Space Telescope images and processed by Roberto Colombari, an Italian astronomical photographer working in Brazil.