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Spirals within spirals

Spirals within spirals
Click for original image.

Cool image time! The picture to the right, cropped, reduced, and annotated to post here, was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope as part of two different research projects that are studying galaxies where supernovae previously occurred. This particular galaxy is estimated to be about 192 million light years away, and is a classic example of a barred spiral.

Despite appearing as an island of tranquillity in this image, UGC 12295 played host to a catastrophically violent explosion — a supernova — that was first detected in 2015. This supernova prompted two different teams of astronomers to propose Hubble observations of UGC 12295 that would sift through the wreckage of this vast stellar explosion.

Supernovae are the explosive deaths of massive stars, and are responsible for forging many of the elements found here on Earth. The first team of astronomers used Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) to examine the detritus left behind by the supernova in order to better understand the evolution of matter in our Universe.

The second team of astronomers also used WFC3 to explore the aftermath of UGC 12295’s supernova, but their investigation focused on returning to the sites of some of the best-studied nearby supernovae. Hubble’s keen vision can reveal lingering traces of these energetic events, shedding light on the nature of the systems that host supernovae.

What struck me about this picture however were the many smaller spiral galaxies scattered nearby and behind UGC 12295, with one face-on spiral highlighted near the top. I can count at least three or four other background spiral galaxies, all reddish in color likely because their light has been shifted to the red due to their distance.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.


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"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • Despite appearing as an island of tranquillity in this image, UGC 12295 played host to a catastrophically violent explosion — a supernova…

    Too funny. A supernova is of course “catastrophic” at the scale of and to the host star, together with its whole system. But the subject was the enclosing galaxy. A single supernova explosion doesn’t even start being catastrophic to a whole galaxy. To speak of it that way is like discussing some macroscopic block of matter — a golf ball, say — while observing what a “catastrophe” it is when a single atom within it radioactively decays (producing a flash detectable from a distance). Not hardly.

  • GeorgeC

    Michael, a supernova can output sufficient hard radiation to kill off life such as on earth over thousand of light years away. So a real problem for fragile things.

  • DJ

    I appreciate the technology that allows us to “see” cosmic events and matter of all kinds 100’s to 1000’s of light years away. But I would be most interested in Proxima Centauri b exoplanet. It is 4 light years away. With the technology we have available, I would like more visual information about that system. By the way Enceladus, Titan, and Ganymede would be very nice to get up close and personal with. IMO.

  • DJ: Do some searches here at BtB for these objects. You might find some very nice cool images to review.

  • Jeff Wright

    The Rishi Maze!

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