Hubble Space Telescope captures a sparkling spiral galaxy

This week’s image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows a picture-perfect galaxy, known somewhat unimaginatively as Mrk 1337. It is located 120 million light-years away in the constellation of Virgo, and is a weakly barred spiral galaxy. A spiral galaxy is one like our Milky Way, in which “arms” of stars reach out from the busy center of the galaxy to form a spiraling shape.

The spiral galaxy Mrk (Markarian) 1337, which is roughly 120 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation Virgo.
This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope features the spiral galaxy Mrk (Markarian) 1337, which is roughly 120 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation Virgo. Mrk 1337 is a weakly barred spiral galaxy, which as the name suggests means that the spiral arms radiate from a central bar of gas and stars. Bars occur in roughly half of spiral galaxies, including our own galaxy, the Milky Way. ESA/Hubble & NASA, A. Riess et al.

And a “barred” spiral galaxy is one that features a central bar — again, like the Milky Way — which is where dust and gas give birth to new stars in an elongated region in the center of the galaxy. This galaxy’s bar is only a weak one, which means it is hard to see, but you can see a clearer bar in images of other galaxies such as Hubble’s previous image of galaxy NGC 7773.

“Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 snapped Mrk 1337 at a wide range of ultraviolet, visible, and infrared wavelengths, producing this richly detailed image,” Hubble scientists write. By capturing data in different wavelengths, scientists can see different features of the galaxy. By looking in the infrared wavelength, for example, telescopes can “see” heat and identify which areas of an image are warmer than others. And by looking in the ultraviolet wavelength, Hubble can see the illumination of hotter objects like very young stars.

Astronomers can combine observations from the visible light, ultraviolet, or infrared wavelengths to pick up different features and get a more detailed overall look at an object — in this case, this beautiful spiral galaxy.

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