Two new images developed by NASA’s Hubble Telescope this week show nebulas and a spiral galaxy in incredible detail.
NASA today revealed what it called “two festive-looking nebulas” captured by Hubble recently, the pair combining to make up NGC 248, in the southern constellation Tucana.
Housed in a dwarf galaxy called the Small Magellanic Cloud 200,000 light years away, they are lit up red. This is thanks to intense radiation from “the brilliant central stars”, which heat up hydrogen in each nebula.
NGC 248 is of interest to scientists because it’s in a galaxy that has as little as 10pc of the amount of heavy elements our Milky Way enjoys, making it a curious area to investigate.
Because it is so close, astronomers can study its dust in great detail, and learn about what dust was like earlier in the history of the universe.
“It is important for understanding the history of our own galaxy, too,” explained the study’s principal investigator, Karin Sandstrom of the University of California, San Diego. “Dust is a really critical part of how a galaxy works, how it forms stars.”
Earlier this week, a spiral galaxy originally discovered in 1900 was captured in incredible detail. Known as The Crane, the constellation’s official name is IC 5201 and it dwells quite a lot further away from Earth than NGC 248, estimated at 40m light years from Earth.
As with two-thirds of all the spirals we see in the universe, according to NASA, the galaxy – much like our Milky Way – has a bar of stars slicing through its centre.