A ‘fluffy’ galaxy with an empty, starless centre beamed back by NASA’s Hubble space telescope
67 million light-years away, the NGC 2775 galaxy seems to have stopped forming stars.
This revealed by an especially awe-inspiring photo taken by NASA’s most powerful space Telescope, Hubble, released on Friday.
Astronomers explain the halt in star production by the distinctly empty-looking, clear bulge at the galaxy’s centre. When the NGC 2775 galaxy was younger, gas in its centre is likely to have been teeming with a density of newborn stars. Now, all that gas looks to be used up.
NASA describes how encircling NGC 2775,“’flocculent’ spiral arms indicate that the recent history of star formation of the galaxy…has been relatively quiet” with “virtually no star formation in the central part.”
Fluffy-looking bridges bracketing the galaxy’s centre result from dark dust and puffs of gas, while the blue specks that shine bright through the haze are the millions of stars.
The arms of other spiral galaxies – including Earth’s own Milky Way – are more distinct, with stars and gas compressed.
Since NASA first launched Hubble into Earth’s orbit in April 1990, discoveries have included new planets, strange galaxies, and new understandings of the nature of black holes. It has also found the universe to be expanding at a faster rate than before thought.
New space telescopes are likely to return even more spectacular photos. Infared cameras to their most advanced yet will be used by NASA’s next project, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).
“We’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg from the ground,” said Torsten Böker of the European Space Agency and STScI in a 2019 press release.
“Webb will be able to study fainter stars and tell us more about the overall stellar population.”
Research from NASA and the ESA (European Space Agency).
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