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Cool image time! The photo to the right, reduced to post here, was released today and is one in what has become a steady string of recent and quite spectacular galaxy images produced by scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope. From the caption:
This image from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope features the Grand Design Spiral, NGC 3631, located some 53 million light-years away in the direction of the constellation Ursa Major. The “arms” of grand design spirals appear to wind around and into the galaxy’s nucleus.
Close inspection of NGC 3631’s grand spiral arms reveals dark dust lanes and bright star-forming regions along the inner part of the spiral arms. Star formation in spirals is similar to a traffic jam on the interstate. Like cars on the highway, slower moving matter in the spiral’s disk creates a bottleneck, concentrating star-forming gas and dust along the inner part of their spiral arms. This traffic jam of matter can get so dense that it gravitationally collapses, creating new stars (here seen in bright blue-white).
This spiral follows the classic shape of these whirlpool galaxies. The Milky Way, though also a spiral, is now thought to be a barred spiral, whereby the galaxy’s whirlpool shape is distorted by a large straight bar of stars crossing its center.
Scientists also released today a second photo from Hubble of a different spiral galaxy, which you can check out here.
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