Skip to main content

Hubble image captures a stunning spiral galaxy in the constellation of Aquila

This week’s image from the Hubble Space Telescope captures the glorious spiral galaxy UGC 11537, seen at an angle that shows off both its long spiral arms and the bright clump of stars at its center. It is located 230 million light-years away in the constellation of Aquila (Latin for “eagle”).

As well as being pleasing to look at, this image was collected to further scientific knowledge about the enormous black holes at the galaxy’s heart. “This image came from a set of observations designed to help astronomers weigh supermassive black holes in the centers of distant galaxies,” Hubble scientists wrote. “Hubble’s sharp-eyed observations along with data from ground-based telescopes allowed astronomers to make detailed models of the mass and motions of stars in these galaxies, which in turn helps constrain the mass of supermassive black holes.”

Astronomical portrait from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope showcases an edge-on view of the majestic spiral galaxy UGC 11537.
This astronomical portrait from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope showcases an edge-on view of the majestic spiral galaxy UGC 11537. The infrared and visible light capabilities of Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 have captured the galaxy’s tightly wound spiral arms swirling around its heart. The image reveals the bright bands of stars and the dark clouds of dust threading throughout the galaxy. ESA/Hubble & NASA, A. Seth

Hubble is back up and running this week, with all four of its currently active instruments operational and collecting science data once again. The telescope had been automatically placed into safe mode following a synchronization error in late October, but the error seems to have been a one-off. In the weeks since the error occurred, the Hubble team turned on first one of the older inactive instruments, then each of the currently active instruments one by one.

No further errors have occurred, but NASA has said that the team is looking into performing a software update in the future. This would allow the instruments to continue operating even if a few synchronization messages were missed, which should prevent problems like this one from happening in the future.

Hubble is getting old, having been in operation for more than 30 years. Soon it will be joined by the James Webb Space Telescope, set to launch in a few weeks, which will be its successor  — however, the two telescopes have distinctly different specialties. Hubble observes primarily in the visible light wavelength, while James Webb will observe primarily in the infrared wavelength. So NASA plans to keep Hubble running as long as possible in addition to James Webb, and has recently extended its operations contract until 2026.

Editors' Recommendations

Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
Hubble spots an ancient pair of supermassive black holes about to merge
This artist's concept shows the brilliant glare of two quasars residing in the cores of two galaxies that are in the chaotic process of merging. The gravitational tug-of-war between the two galaxies ignites a firestorm of star birth.

The hearts of some galaxies glow so brightly that they are given a special name: Quasars. Powered by supermassive black holes at the center of these galaxies, these regions give off tremendous amounts of light as gas falls towards the black hole and heats up, resulting in a glow as powerful as over 100 billion stars. Recently, astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope spotted two of these quasars burning brightly in the night sky -- and they're on a collision course.

The pair of quasars, known as SDSS J0749+2255, are from some of the earliest stages of the universe when it was just 3 billion years old. The two galaxies that host the quasars are in the process of merging, and eventually, the two will come together to form one enormous galaxy.

Read more
There’s a cosmic jellyfish in this week’s Hubble image
The galaxy JW100 (lower right) features prominently in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The streams of star-forming gas dripping from the disk of the galaxy like streaks of fresh paint are formed by a process called ram pressure stripping. Their resemblance to dangling tentacles led astronomers to refer to JW100 as a ‘jellyfish’ galaxy. JW100 is over 800 million light-years away, in the constellation Pegasus.

This week's Hubble image shows an unusual type of galaxy that might seen more at home in the ocean than among the stars: a jellyfish galaxy. These galaxies have a main body of stars, with tentacle-like structures reaching off away from the body in just one direction. This particular jellyfish galaxy, known as JW100, is located more than 800 million light-years away and is found in the constellation of Pegasus.

The jellyfish galaxy is located toward the bottom right of the image, with purple-pink tentacles of stars reaching downward. In the upper middle part of the image, you'll also see two very bright blobs, which are the core of another galaxy within the same galaxy cluster. This nearby galaxy, called IC 5338, is the brightest one within the cluster and has a large glowing area around it called a halo.

Read more
Hubble sees the changing seasons on Jupiter and Uranus
[Jupiter: left] - The forecast for Jupiter is for stormy weather at low northern latitudes. A prominent string of alternating storms is visible, forming a ‘vortex street’ as some planetary astronomers call it. [Uranus: right] - Uranus’s north pole shows a thickened photochemical haze that looks similar to the smog over cities. Several little storms can be seen near the edge of the polar haze boundary. Note: The planets do not appear in this image to scale.

Our planet isn't the only place in the solar system with dramatic weather changes. Other planets in the solar system also experience seasons, depending on their distance from the sun, and that affects their climates. One of the many jobs of the Hubble Space Telescope is to monitor the changing seasons on other planets, particularly the larger outer planets which aren't so often observed. And this week, scientist have released their newest views of Jupiter and Uranus, taken by Hubble and showing seasonal changes on the two planets.

Jupiter is far from the sun, so most of its heat comes not from outside but from within. Jupiter is thought to have a very high core temperature, which may be a result of how it was formed but could also be topped up by processes inside the planet. As this heat escapes from the planet's interior, it affects its atmosphere which contains multiple layers and has unusual features like geometric storms at its poles.

Read more