NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has beamed back another stunning image peeking into our universe. This time HST has spotted a spiral galaxy named NHC 247 located 11 million light years away. The galaxy NGC 247 is a relative of small spiral galaxy located in the southern constellation of Cetus. The stunning image shows the central region of the spiral galaxy.
NGC 247’s nucleus is visible here as a bright, whitish patch, surrounded by a mixture of stars, gas and dust. The dust forms dark patches and filaments that are silhouetted against the background of stars, while the gas has formed into bright knots known as H II regions, mostly scattered throughout the galaxy’s arms and outer areas.
This galaxy displays one particularly unusual and mysterious feature — it is not visible in this image, but can be seen clearly in wider views of the galaxy, such as a picture from ESO’s MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope. The northern part of NGC 247’s disc hosts an apparent void, a gap in the usual swarm of stars and H II regions that spans almost a third of the galaxy’s total length.
There are stars within this void, but they are quite different from those around it. They are significantly older, and as a result much fainter and redder. This indicates that the star formation taking place across most of the galaxy’s disk has somehow been arrested in the void region, and has not taken place for around one billion years. Although astronomers are still unsure how the void formed, recent studies suggest it might have been caused by gravitational interactions with part of another galaxy.
Hubble Space Telescope is a joint venture of NASA and ESA. The telescope was launched in 1990 and since then it is the largest telescope in space. HST has helped scientists in exploring the deepest corners of the universe and has beamed back millions of stunning shots in its entire career. However, HST will be replaced by the James Webb Telescope in 2018 as it has thrice larger lens when compared to HST.