Image of the Day: The Most Magnificent Galaxy in the Observable Universe?



Galaxy NGC 1512 gets our vote hands down as the most extraordinarily beautiful known galaxy in existence. The center of the magnificent barred spiral galaxy reveals a stunning 2,400 light-year-wide circle of infant star clusters. Astronomers generally believe that the giant bar, which is too faint to be seen in this image, funnels the gas to the inner ring, where massive stars are formed within numerous star clusters. NGC 1512 Located 30 million light-years away, is a neighbor of our Milky Way galaxy.

In the NASA photo, below, each top panel image was made with a filter and camera sensitive to a different wavelength band in the electromagnetic spectrum. Arranged by increasing wavelength, at the far left are two ultraviolet images from Hubble's Faint Object Camera. Next are two visible light images from its Wide Field Planetary Camera 2, followed on the right by three infrared images from the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrograph.

These images show that the center of NGC 1512 appears dramatically altered when viewed in different wavelength bands. In particular, the ultraviolet images highlight clusters of young, hot stars in a ring 2,400 light-years wide surrounding the core.

Astronomers are searching for cause of this awesome cosmic starburst ring.  

When we look at a galaxy such this we shake our heads in awe, wondering how many life-bearing planets might exist there.



Image credits: courtesy of Hubble/NASA and APOD: D. Maoz (Tel-Aviv Univ./Columbia Univ.) et al., ESA, NASA


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