Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Ribbons and Pearls of the Galaxy NGC 1398

Credit: ESO

This week’s picture shows spectacular ribbons of gas and dust wrapping around the pearly center of the barred spiral galaxy NGC 1398. This galaxy is located in the constellation of Fornax (The Furnace), approximately 65 million light-years away.

Rather than beginning at the very middle of the galaxy and swirling outwards, NGC 1398’s graceful spiral arms stem from a straight bar, formed of stars, that cuts through the galaxy’s central region. Most spiral galaxies — around two thirds — are observed to have this feature, but it’s not yet clear whether or how these bars affect a galaxy’s behavior and development.

This image comprises data gathered by the FOcal Reducer/low dispersion Spectrograph 2 (FORS2) instrument, mounted on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) at Paranal Observatory, Chile. It shows NGC 1398 in striking detail, from the dark lanes of dust mottling its spiral arms, through to the pink-hued star-forming regions sprinkled throughout its outer regions.

This image was created as part of the ESO Cosmic Gems program, an outreach initiative to produce images of interesting, intriguing or visually attractive objects using ESO telescopes, for the purposes of education and public outreach. The program makes use of telescope time that cannot be used for science observations. All data collected may also be suitable for scientific purposes, and are made available to astronomers through ESO’s science archive.

Credit: ESO

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