Skip to main content

Hubble captures a beautiful galaxy located in a cosmic crucible

NGC 1385, a spiral galaxy 68 million light-years from Earth.
This jewel-bright image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows NGC 1385, a spiral galaxy 68 million light-years from Earth, which lies in the constellation Fornax. The image was taken with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3, which is often referred to as Hubble’s workhorse camera, thanks to its reliability and versatility. It was installed in 2009 when astronauts last visited Hubble, and 12 years later, it remains remarkably productive. ESA/Hubble & NASA, J. Lee and the PHANGS-HST Team

This beautiful image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope may look peaceful, but it shows galaxy NGC 1385, which is located around 68 million light-years away in a constellation with a fiery name: Fornax, which means “furnace” in Latin.

“The constellation was named Fornax by Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille, a French astronomer born in 1713,” the Hubble scientists write. “Lacaille named 14 of the 88 constellations we still recognize today. He seems to have had a penchant for naming constellations after scientific instruments, including Atlia (the air pump), Norma (the ruler, or set square), and Telescopium (the telescope).” Lacaille spotted this particular constellation on a trip to the Cape of Good Hope in 1751, and he decided to name it after a chemist’s furnace in honor of the work being done by chemists at the time.

As for Hubble, this grand old telescope has had a difficult time lately, as it suffered from a computer error that caused all of its science instruments to be automatically switched into safe mode, during which time they do not collect any data. After some fast troubleshooting from the ground, engineers determined that the problem was in a piece of hardware that controls the science instruments, called the Science Instrument Command and Data Handling (SI C&DH) unit, and its power system, the Power Control Unit (PCU).

Fortunately, Hubble carries backup hardware in case an error like this occurs. After careful tests and preparations, the team was able to switch over to this backup hardware and get Hubble back up and running.

At over 30 years old, Hubble is getting on in years, and these kinds of errors are to be expected. This is one reason NASA plans to launch the James Webb Space Telescope soon, which will act as the successor to Hubble.

Editors' Recommendations

Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
The Siena Galaxy Atlas now catalogs 400,000 nearby galaxies
A galactic collision of two galaxies which began more than 300 million years ago, NGC 520 is actually made up of two disk galaxies which will eventually merge together to form one larger, more massive system. NGC 520 was discovered by William Herschel in 1784 and is one of the largest and brightest galaxies in the Siena Galaxy Atlas.

The universe is vast, likely containing trillions of galaxies -- an almost incomprehensible number. But when we focus in on just the nearby galaxies to our Milky Way, we already see a large number and huge diversity of galaxies around us.

A nearby galaxy catalog, the Siena Galaxy Atlas (SGA), was recently updated and now includes almost 400,000 galaxies located within our cosmic neighborhood, and this treasure trove of data is available to the public for free.

Read more
James Webb captures a gorgeous stellar nursery in nearby dwarf galaxy
This new infrared image of NGC 346 from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) traces emission from cool gas and dust. In this image blue represents silicates and sooty chemical molecules known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs. More diffuse red emission shines from warm dust heated by the brightest and most massive stars in the heart of the region. Bright patches and filaments mark areas with abundant numbers of protostars. This image includes 7.7-micron light shown in blue, 10 microns in cyan, 11.3 microns in green, 15 microns in yellow, and 21 microns in red (770W, 1000W, 1130W, 1500W, and 2100W filters, respectively).

A gorgeous new image from the James Webb Space Telescope shows a stunning sight from one of our galactic neighbors. The image shows a region of star formation called NGC 346, where new stars are being born. It's located in the Small Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf galaxy that is a satellite galaxy to the Milky Way.

The star-forming region of the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) was previously imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2005, but this new image gives a different view as it is taken in the infrared wavelength by Webb instead of the optical light wavelength used by Hubble.

Read more
Hubble observes mysterious bright explosion in the middle of nowhere
An artist’s concept of one of the brightest explosions ever seen in space.

The Hubble Space Telescope recently observed something strange: an extremely bright, extremely fast flash of light that popped up in the middle of nowhere. Technically known as a Luminous Fast Blue Optical Transient (LFBOT), the odd thing about this rare event was that it occurred outside of a galaxy.

These flashes have been observed only a few times since they were discovered in 2018, and this particular event was named The Finch. Hubble was used to track the flash's origin point, which was in between two galaxies: 50,000 light-years away from a larger spiral galaxy and around 15,000 light-years away from a smaller galaxy. This has astronomers puzzled, as these events were thought to issue from inside galaxies where stars are forming -- but this event happened far away from any star-forming region.

Read more