Hubble Discovers NGC 1073, A Barred Spiral Galaxy Similar to Milky Way

ngc-1073-galaxy

The Hubble Telescope unveiled an eerie twin galaxy to the Milky Way today. NGC 1073, a barred spiral galaxy like the Milky Way, is located 55 million light-years away in the Cetus constellation.

Astronomers hope to better understand the Milky Way by observing NGC 1073. The aforementioned bars are made up of dense lines of stars at the center of the galaxies, which are thought to form as gravity causes density waves to push gas inward, supplying raw materials for birthing new stars. The inflow of gas also feeds the giant black holes that are thought to inhabit the center of most galaxies.

Scientists think that the bars form as spiral galaxies age, which is supported in part because extremely distant galaxies dating from the universe’s early days tend not to have them. Also, bars are linked to galaxies full of older, redder stars and less prevalent in galaxies with bluer, younger stars.

ngc-1073-landscapeThe image also reveals an odd, rough ring-like structure around the galaxy, that is the result of recent star formation. A bright X-ray source inside the ring is most likely a binary system containing a star and a black hole, locked in orbit around each other.  There are also three quasars in the image, incredibly bright sources of light caused by matter heating up and falling into supermassive black holes in galaxies, literally billions of light-years from us, states a Hubble researcher.

ngc-1073-three-quasar

They are in fact some of the most distant objects observable in the universe.

[via Space, images by NASA]

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