Newly Released Hubble Image of Galaxy NGC 6861

Hubble Image of Galaxy NGC 6861

NGC 6861 is the second brightest member of a group of at least a dozen galaxies called the Telescopium Group in the small constellation of Telescopium (The Telescope). Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA; Acknowledgement: J. Barrington

First discovered in 1826, this newly released Hubble image shows galaxy NGC 6861.

The subject of this image is NGC 6861, a galaxy discovered in 1826 by the Scottish astronomer James Dunlop. Almost two centuries later we now know that NGC 6861 is the second brightest member of a group of at least a dozen galaxies called the Telescopium Group — otherwise known as the NGC 6868 Group — in the small constellation of Telescopium (The Telescope).

This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope view shows some important details of NGC 6861. One of the most prominent features is the disc of dark bands circling the center of the galaxy. These dust lanes are a result of large clouds of dust particles obscuring the light emitted by the stars behind them.

Dust lanes are very useful for working out whether we are seeing the galaxy disc edge-on, face-on or, as is the case for NGC 6861, somewhat in the middle. Dust lanes like these are typical of a spiral galaxy. The dust lanes are embedded in a white oval shape, which is made up of huge numbers of stars orbiting the center of the galaxy. This oval is, rather puzzlingly, typical of an elliptical galaxy.

So which is it — spiral or elliptical? The answer is neither! NGC 6861 does not belong to either the spiral or the elliptical family of galaxies. It is a lenticular galaxy, a family which has features of both spirals and ellipticals.

The relationships between these three kinds of galaxies are not yet well understood. A lenticular galaxy could be a faded spiral that has run out of gas and lost its arms, or the result of two galaxies merging. Being part of a group increases the chances for galactic mergers, so this could be the case for NGC 6861.

A version of this image was entered into the Hubble’s Hidden Treasures image processing competition by contestant Josh Barrington.


12 Comments on "Newly Released Hubble Image of Galaxy NGC 6861"

  1. I wasn’t aware that Hubble was creating images in 1826, but I’m certainly glad they discovered it 😉

  2. Good god. How about a real image. This composite has some many pastes, it does not have a spot that has not been pasted into.

  3. It looks like a hurricane in the “Space Ocean”. A hurricane of matter and energy much like the water vapor, water droplets, ice crystals, and lighting of the atmospheric analog. Is there such a named galaxy? The Hurricane or Typhoon Galaxy? I’ve heard of the Whirlpool Galaxy. That would be an aquatic analog.

  4. How does one discover a galaxy in 1826 is my first question

    • First you need a telescope with a large aperture, photographic equipment and Dark skies. As the Earth moves around the sun, stars in this galaxy will shift slightly. It’s called parallax. When something doesn’t move,it’s probably not local – very far away. But considering its magnitude (brightness), even someone in the 1820s could theorize the object was a galaxy. At the very least, the object, most likely too dim to see with the naked eye, could be discovered even if no one knew what it was.

      • Error 1820s probably no photography. Objects would have to be plotted on paper. Still don’t knock the expertise of people long ago to do things extraordinary

    • They Googled it silly! 🙂

    • Telescopes existed in 1826.

    • By telescope my friend.

  5. Its shown upside down. It should call it the fried egg galaxy.;)

  6. Why do “scientists” label galaxies as elliptical or spiral when they only appear as an “ellipse” bcoz it sits at an oblique angle from our perspective.
    Surely they’re aware that everything in the universe is created with perfection and that these celestial systems are self organizing but require millions of years to develop and as we discover them, they lie in various stages of development.
    You don’t crack an egg into a frying pan and say, “its a chicken”, when its only an embryo.

    This Galaxy appears to be relatively young indicated by the expansion of illuminated gas in the center which has yet to attract the lighter density gases into the nucleus which will eventually coalesce and ignite as the central Sun.

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