Galaxies are often thought to be lively neighborhoods of stellar activity. A large portion of these cosmic districts breathe life into newborn stars that are created by swaths of dust and gas, think of these as galactic college campuses. But for every rambunctious stellar object, there are also groups of elderly stars telling the youngsters to stay the hell off their lawn.
The picture seen below depicts a galaxy, known as NGC 2655, which has lost all of the interstellar matter required to create new stars. The star formation is located about 80 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Camelopardalis and is completely made up of an aging population of stars, making it a stellar retirement home for some ancient cosmic objects.
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The Hubble Space Telescope captured this image during its intergalactic travels and it was featured as the European Space Agency’s Picture of the Week on Monday. The photo showcases the lenticular galaxy type, one of the three broad categories of galactic classification. These star systems are intermediate between elliptical and spiral galaxies in Edwin Hubble’s Classification Scheme, which astronomers use to divided galaxies based on their appearance.
Lenticular galaxies are defined by their extremely bright central bulge that is surrounded by a disk-like halo. However, unlike its galactic brethren, its disk doesn’t have a visible spiral structure, which is usually created by particles of dust and gas that inhabit other star systems and enable them to create new stars.
The extremely bright heart of NGC 2655 is caused by matter being dragged and spun around by a supermassive black hole that is thought to be sitting at the center of this cosmic old folks’ home. Astronomers believe that this region of space was once subject to galactic collisions that might have caused the odd formations of gas seen in the galaxy’s outer disk.
Luckily for the elderly stars inhabiting NGC 2655, it doesn’t seem like they’ll be experiencing another merger any time soon. So they can live out the rest of the next 100 million years in pure serenity, light-years away from any other rowdy galaxy.