Astronomers worked hard to get this galactic glamour shot.
“Looking this good isn’t easy,” wrote NASA on Friday. “30 different exposures, for a total of nine hours of observation time, together with the high resolution and clarity of Hubble, were needed to produce an image of such high level of detail and beauty.”
This is galaxy NGC 5643, located some 60 million light-years from Earth. It’s a spiral galaxy like the Milky Way, meaning it has arms that spiral out from its center. The central region of the galaxy is profoundly radiant because of the dense collection of stars clustered in that area.
(In our Milky Way Galaxy, the sun is located in one of the outer galactic arms.)
The Hubble Space Telescope orbits above Earth’s atmosphere, allowing it to capture exceptionally clear images of galaxies and planets without the distortion from gases in our atmosphere. Orbiting Earth for over three decades, Hubble has traveled over 4 billion miles. It’s powered by the sun.
NASA’s next-generation space telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, is expected to launch into space in late 2021. It’s huge, with a mirror over twice the size of Hubble’s. James Webb will peer into the oldest depths of the universe.
“It will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System,” explained NASA.