Science and Exploration

Hubble’s View of Galaxy NGC 3621

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
October 15, 2013
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Hubble’s View of Galaxy NGC 3621
NGC 3621

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The image, captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows part of NGC 3621, an unusual spiral galaxy located over 20 million light-years away in the constellation of Hydra (The Water Snake).

The small, bright nucleus on the right of the image does not have the significant bulge of older stars that is common in spiral galaxies, marking NGC 3621 as a “pure-disc” galaxy. Many luminous clumps of blue young stars are scattered along the loose spiral arms, which are partially obscured by the dark dust lanes snaking across the frame. This galaxy is very useful for astronomers; some of its brightest stars can be used to estimate extragalactic distances, allowing us to measure the vast scale of the Universe.

A version of this image was entered into the Hubble’s Hidden Treasures image processing competition by contestant Claude Cornen. The Hubble Space Telescope is the astronomers’ tele-lens; a wider view of this galaxy was obtained with ESO’s Very Large Telescope (potw1148a), and a wide-angle image with the Wide-Field Imager (WFI) at ESO’s La Silla Observatory (eso1104). Just as for normal landscape photography, different lenses – or telescopes, in this case! – are used depending on what the photographer wants to shoot.

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA
Acknowledgement: Claude Cornen

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