HomeAstronomy & SpaceAstronomyHubble spies a serpentine spiral

Hubble spies a serpentine spiral

The slowly winding spiral arms of the galaxy NGC 5921 snake across this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. This galaxy is situated approximately 80 million light-years from Earth. It is much like our own galaxy which is the Milky Way and contains a prominent bar. Roughly half of all spiral galaxies may contain bars. These bars affect their parent galaxies by fuelling star formation. These also influences the motion of stars and interstellar gas.

It seems fitting that the galaxy resides in the constellation Serpens in the northern celestial hemisphere, given NGC 5921’s serpentine spiral arms. Serpens is the only one of the 88 modern constellations with two unconnected regions which are Serpens Caput (Serpent’s Head) and Serpens Cauda (Serpent’s Tail). Ophiuchus is the Serpent Bearer which separates these two regions.

The scientific study behind this image also came in two parts. These are observations from Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 and observations from the ground-based Gemini Observatory. The two telescopes helped scientists better understand the relationship between galaxies like NGC 5921 and the supermassive black holes they contain. Hubble’s contribution determined the masses of stars in the galaxies. Hubble also took measurements that helped calibrate the observations from Gemini. Hubble and Gemini provided astronomers with a census of nearby supermassive black holes in a diverse variety of galaxies.


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