The face-on spiral galaxy IC 5332, in the constellation Sculptor, is an SABc-type with weakly barred features and loosely coiled arms.
This glittering Hubble Space Telescope image shows the spiral galaxy IC 5332, which is located approximately 30 million light-years away in the constellation Sculptor, and has an almost face-on orientation to Earth.
To explain what is meant by ‘face-on’, it is helpful to visualize a spiral galaxy as an (extremely) large disc. If the galaxy is oriented so that it appears circular and disc-shaped from our perspective here on Earth, then we can say that it is ‘face-on’. In contrast, if it is oriented so that it appears squashed and oval-shaped, then we would say that it is ‘edge-on’.
The key thing is that the same galaxy would look extremely different from our perspective depending on whether it was face-on or edge-on as seen from Earth. Check out these previous Hubble Pictures of the Week for examples of another face-on spiral galaxy (pictured above) and an almost edge-on spiral galaxy (below).
IC 5332 is designated as an SABc-type galaxy in the De Vaucouleurs system of galaxy classification. The ‘S’ is straightforward, identifying it as a spiral galaxy, which it clearly is, given the well-defined arms of bright stars and darker dust that curl outwards from the galaxy’s dense and bright core. The ‘AB’ is a little more complex. It means that the galaxy is weakly barred, which refers to the shape of the galaxy’s center.
The majority of spiral galaxies do not spiral out from a single point, but rather from an elongated bar-type structure. SAB galaxies — which are also known as intermediate spiral galaxies — do not have a clear bar shape at their core, but also do not spiral out from a single point, instead falling somewhere in between. The lowercase ‘c’ describes how tightly wound the spiral arms are: ‘a’ would indicate very tightly wound, and ‘d’ very loosely wound. Thus, IC 5332 is quite an intermediate spiral galaxy on many fronts: weakly barred, with quite loosely wound arms, and almost completely face-on!