NASA's Hubble telescope snaps stunning close-up shot of 'flying saucer' galaxy 85 million light-years away

The galaxy hosts stars at its center called a bulge of stars, which are thought to play a key role in how galaxies evolve and influence the growth of supermassive black holes lurking at the centers of most spirals


                            NASA's Hubble telescope snaps stunning close-up shot of 'flying saucer' galaxy 85 million light-years away
Hubble's close-up of the galaxy's spiral’s disk bulge (ESA/Hubble & NASA, P. Erwin et al)

Scientists from NASA have recently captured a shot of a galaxy, 85 million light-years away, in all its glory.

The image is of a galaxy named IC 2051 sitting in the southern constellation of Mensa, making it one among the 1.3 million or more observations made by the Hubble space telescope since 1990.

NASA calls it a spiral galaxy, showing a whirling and pinwheeling arm pattern, only to be interrupted by a bar of stars slicing through its center. The galaxy hosts stars at its center called the bulge of stars.

These "are thought to play a key role in how galaxies evolve, and to influence the growth of supermassive black holes lurking at the centers of most spirals," said NASA in a statement.

From the side, the spiral galaxy resembles flying saucers to a degree. Furthermore, the galaxy looks like a thin, flat disk, with a bulky bulge of stars in the center that extends above and below the disk.

While more observations are needed in this area, studies suggest that some, or even most galactic bulges, may be complex composite structures rather than simple ones, with a mix of spherical, disk-like, or boxy components, potentially leading to a wide array of bulge morphologies in the universe, says the statement.

An image of the center of the Milky Way galaxy, where a red and yellow "candy cane" feature was recently observed by astronomers. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

Another recent discovery by the Hubble telescope could hold crucial information about star formation. But this time, the image was shot within the Milky Way Galaxy itself.

In it, scientists saw something that looked like a "candy cane" — made of high-energy particles that are linked to the formation of stars — occupying the center.

While researchers are still searching for the source of the charged molecules that make up this part of the cane, they speculate that the Sickle — another high-energy galactic feature — is associated with star formation and may be the source of these high-speed electrons.

However, that still remains a mystery. "We're very intrigued by the beauty of this image," Johannes Staguhn, an astronomer at Johns Hopkins University, says in the Johns Hopkins statement.

"It is exotic. When you look at it, you feel like you're looking at some really special forces of nature in the universe," says Staguhn.

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