Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Cool new Hubble picture

This weekend, while looking at the Astronomy Picture of the Day, I saw this picture of the galaxy NGC 5866, an edge-on spiral galaxy in the constellation Draco. (Click on the picture to get to the NASA site with larger images).

If you look at the large version of this picture, you can see some really neat things. First, if you look at the dark lane of dust crossing the galaxy, you can see thin tendrils of dust silhouetted against the starlight from the galaxy. You can also notice that the dust is very slightly askew compared to the edge-on disk of stars. And you can tell that the disk of stars is bluer than the rest of the galaxy, meaning that these stars are younger. Like in our Milky Way galaxy, stars in this galaxy are only formed in the thin disk. The outer halo of stars is much, much older, and no new stars are being made there. Finally, you can see many more distant galaxies (orangish in color, as the expansion of the Universe stretches the light from blue to red). Some of these can even be seen right through the light from the big galaxy!

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