A beautiful new image of the Hubble Space Telescope of a barred spiral galaxy shows a scene similar to what outside observers can see when they look at our own Milky Way.
The image of NGC 7773 shows a prominent bar of stars traversing the heart of the galaxy, moving from the spiral arms full of stars from one side of the galaxy to the other. Astronomers are studying this object to learn more about the changes in our own Milky Way.
"Astronomers think these bar structures emerge later in the life of a galaxy, while star-forming material makes its way to the galactic center," officials at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center said. said in a statement..
"Younger spirals do not have barred structures as well as the older spirals, suggesting that the bars are a sign of galactic maturity. They are also thought to act as stellar nurseries, as they glow intensely with a copious number of young stars. "
While astronomers say that the studies of NGC 7773 and similar barred spirals help them understand the processes that change our own Milky Way, each galaxy has its unique history. Our galaxy has been shaped by many forces of evolution, including possible galactic fusions. In fact, the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy (M31) are underway for a epic collision course in a few billion years.
Hubble obtained the image using its Wide Field Camera 3, which space shuttle astronauts installed on the telescope in 2009. The Hubble and its instruments remain in good health and should continue to make observations in addition to the 2021 launch of its successor, the James Space Telescope Webb. .