NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has captured an image of a massive spiral galaxy, which is shaped like the Milky Way but twice its size.
Using its Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), the space telescope photographed NGC 6744, obtaining detailed images of the galaxy, which has a diameter of 200,000 light years, in comparison with the 100,000-light-year-wide Milky Way.
Located approximately 30 million light years from Earth in the constellation Pavo, NGC 6744 appears as a faint, extended object when viewed by most small telescopes. It is not visible to the naked eye.
“NGC 6744 is similar to our home galaxy in more ways than one,” a NASA statement notes.
It resembles the Milky Way in that it has a central core region made up largely of old yellow stars and dusty spiral arms further out that appear pink and blue. The pink areas are stellar nurseries, where star formation is underway, while the blue areas are regions filled with young stars.
Within the long, curved spiral arms are numerous stars, planets, gas, and dust.
The fact that star formation is still going on indicates the galaxy remains active. Scientists believe NGC 6744 is still growing.
Near the massive galaxy is a smaller, companion galaxy with a distorted shape, similar to the Large Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf satellite galaxy of the Milky Way.
Although the feature is not visible in the Hubble images, scientists spotted a Type Ic supernova, caused by the death of a massive star, within NGC 6744 in 2005.
Installed in 2009, the WFC3 has given Hubble unprecedented depth and range. It has studied a wide range of phenomena, from star formation to remote galaxies, and has taken the majority of the telescope’s most iconic images over the last nine years.