The Hubble Space Telescope has made countless observations of deep space throughout its lifespan. But this newly released image of a distant spiral galaxy seen below was enough to make astronomers’ hearts skip a beat.
This majestic picture depicts the galaxy NGC 3344, which is 20 million light-years away from Earth. This star system is located in the Leo Minor constellation, and Hubble was able to catch it at the perfect angle to create this stunning mosaic of stars.
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Spiral galaxies are some of the most breath-taking celestial formations, but they can appear vastly different to observers depending on how they were photographed. Some are captured edge-on, giving astronomers insight on their vertical composition. NGC 3344, on the other hand, was caught face-on, demonstrating its dazzling bands and brilliant center in all of their glory.
This galaxy is further classified as a “weakly barred spiral galaxy,” or a spiral galaxy with a bar-shaped grouping of stars at its center. It was captured using multiple wavelengths of light, revealing features that would otherwise go unseen.
From this angel NGC 3344 looks like a box full of rubies and sapphires. Its whirling arms are home to newborn stars, that are burning so hot they shine a bright hue of blue. The ribbons of dust and gas glowing a shade of crimson are materials that will eventually be form into even more stars.
While this image offers a detailed look at the galaxy’s structure, much about NGC 3344 remains a mystery. Astronomers have noticed that some of its outer stars are moving in a peculiar way. The central grouping of stars in a galaxy often times dictates how its outer stars move, but this isn’t the case for NGC 3344. Researchers believe it might have intercepted them from another galaxy during a close encounter.
This means that NGC 3344 can steal your heart with its sheer beauty, but it could also be on its way to steal more stars. Other galaxies beware.