New Year’s Greetings! (From a Twin Galaxy of the Milky Way –55 Million Light Years Distant)


The revived Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) aboard the NASA/ESA Hubble telescope has penetrated the dusty disc of the 'edge-on' galaxy NGC 4013 and looked right into the galactic core. To the surprise of astronomers, NICMOS found a brilliant band-like structure, that may be a ring of newly formed stars seen edge-on. NGC 4013, which looks similar to our Milky Way Galaxy, resides in the constellation Ursa Major, 55 million light-years from Earth.

NICMOS enpowers the Hubble telescope to see near-infrared wavelengths of light, so that it can penetrate the dust that obscures the inner hub of the galaxy. The ring-like structure seen by NICMOS encircles the core and is about 720 light-years wide, which is the typical size of most star-forming rings found in disc galaxies.

The human eye cannot see infrared light so colours have been assigned to correspond to near-infrared wavelengths. The blue light represents shorter near-infrared wavelengths and the red light corresponds to longer wavelengths.

This picture, taken with a filter sensitive to hydrogen, shows the glow of stars and gas. Astronomers used this information to calculate the rate of star formation in the ring-like structure.

Image Credits: NASA, ESA, the NICMOS Group (STScI, ESA) and the NICMOS Science Team (Univ. of Arizona)


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