Hubble captures rare alignment between two spiral galaxies

September 17th, 2008 - 12:04 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, September 17 (ANI): NASAs Hubble Space Telescope has captured a rare alignment between two spiral galaxies, with images showing the outer rim of a small, foreground galaxy silhouetted in front of a larger background galaxy.

Skeletal tentacles of dust can be seen extending beyond the small galaxys disk of starlight.

Such outer dark dusty structures, which appear to be devoid of stars, like barren branches, are rarely so visible in a galaxy because there is usually nothing behind them to illuminate them.

Astronomers have never seen dust this far beyond the visible edge of a galaxy, and they do not know if these dusty structures are common features in galaxies.

Understanding a galaxys color and how dust affects and dims that color are crucial to measuring a galaxys true brightness. By knowing the true brightness, astronomers can calculate the galaxys distance from Earth.

Astronomers calculated that the background galaxy is 780 million light-years away.

They have not as yet calculated the distance between the two galaxies, although they think the two are relatively close, but not close enough to interact.

The background galaxy is about the size of the Milky Way Galaxy and is about 10 times larger than the foreground galaxy.

Most of the stars speckled across the image captured by the Hubble, belong to the nearby spiral galaxy NGC 253.

Astronomers used Hubbles Advanced Camera for Surveys to snap images of NGC 253 when they spied the two galaxies in the background.

From ground-based telescopes, the two galaxies look like a single blob. But the Advanced Cameras sharp eye distinguished the blob as two galaxies, cataloged as 2MASX J00482185-2507365. (ANI)

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