Nearby star outshines a distant galaxy

A Hubble Space Telescope image of a spiral galaxy and Milky Way star shows the power of perspective.

Published: August 8, 2020 at 8:10 am
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Barred spiral galaxy NGC 4907 and a Milky Way star. Credit ESA/Hubble & NASA, M. Gregg

Perspective is everything, especially in images of the deep cosmos. This image was captured by the Hubble Space Telescope and it shows barred spiral galaxy NGC 4907 at the top, with a bright star shining directly below it.

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The galaxy is 270 million lightyears away, while the star is located within our own Galaxy and so much closer: 100,000 times closer in fact, residing about 2,500 lightyears away.

NGC 4907 is known as a barred spiral galaxy because of its spiral arms and the bar-shaped structure of stars and cosmic material running through its centre.

The galaxy is a member of the Coma Cluster, a group of over 1,000 galaxies, some of which can be seen in this image around NGC 4907.

The spikes emanating from the star are a visual artefact known as diffraction spikes, caused by starlight entering the Hubble telescope ad being slightly disturbed by its internal support struts.

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Observatory Hubble Space Telescope

Release date 3 August 2020

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Image credit ESA/Hubble & NASA, M. Gregg

Authors

Iain Todd, BBC Sky at Night Magazine
Iain ToddScience journalist

Iain Todd is BBC Sky at Night Magazine's Staff Writer. He fell in love with the night sky when he caught his first glimpse of Orion, aged 10.

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