Space photos

It is estimated the Milky Way is home to 100 billion stars and outside of our galaxy researchers believe there are ten trillion other galaxies. With numbers so big it seems every photograph captured by the Hubble Space Telescope is incredibly unique. So here’s a very small selection of the telescope’s most incredible space photos, check them out below.


1. Galaxies passing each other in the Hare constellation


The space photo above shows two galaxies in the Hare constellation (also known as Lepus) passing by each other. NASA reports the two galaxies are travelling at a speed of roughly 2 million kilometres per hour which is too fast for the two to merge and become a single galaxy. Another interesting aspect of this galactic interaction is the small separation between the two galaxies which will likely cause gravitational distortion.

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA


2. The Lizard constellation’s super bright star


Believe it or not, the subject of this space photo is meant to be the NGC 7250 galaxy to the right of this blinding star, but the star, named TYC 3203-450-1, hogs all the attention! Astronomers call stars like this “foreground stars”, because usually much closer than other celestial bodies. Their proximity and brighter light also contaminate fainter light from more distant objects like the galaxy to the right.

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA


3. NGC 4424 and LEDA 213994


Pictured are the galaxies NGC 4424 and LEDA 213994 with a bright star between them. LEDA is the smaller bright galaxy to the right, while NGC 4424 is the large colourful galaxy to the left. In case you’re still not sure which is which, we’ve pointed them out below:

Galaxies NGC 4424 and LEDA 213994 featuring a bright star between them.

The European Space Agency explains the difference between the two naming conventions: “Many NGC (New General Catalog of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars) objects still go by their initial names simply because they were christened within the NGC first.” The NGC was compiled in 1888. The Lyon-Meudon Extragalactic Database known as LEDA is more modern and contains millions of objects.

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA


4. A frisbee galaxy


Pictured is a section of the spiral galaxy NGC 1448. This galaxy is located about 50 million light-years away from Earth, in a constellation called Horologium or The Pendulum Clock.
ESA writes: “Although spiral galaxies might appear static with their picturesque shapes frozen in space, this is very far from the truth. The stars in these dramatic spiral configurations are constantly moving as they orbit around the galaxy’s core, with those on the inside making the orbit faster than those sitting further out.”

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA


5. UGC 12591, the massive hybrid galaxy


UGC 12591 is a strange and incredible massive galaxy that isn’t quite lenticular or quite spiral. It is a combination of the two. UGC 12591 is located almost 400 million lightyears away from us in the Pices-Perseus Supercluster – one of the largest known structures in the universe. This galaxy is located in the westernmost region of Pices-Perseus.

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA


6. Andromeda’s spiral


Not to be confused with the Andromeda Galaxy, the constellation of the same name is home to the spiral galaxy pictured above. Known as NGC 7640, this is a barred spiral type galaxy. The ESA says the distinguishing characteristic of these galaxies is the spiral arms which fans out from a elongated core, and not a circular core like the traditional spiral galaxies.

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA


7. The comet galaxy


In the lesser-known constellation called Canes Venatici – or The Hunting Dogs – is a reddish, almost comet-like galaxy called NGC 4861. The galaxy’s classification has been debated by astronomers, with some believing it should be known as a spiral galaxy because of its mass, size and rotational velocity. Other disagree saying its comet-like appearance make it closer to a dwarf irregular galaxy.

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA


8. The not so black hole


At the very centre of this jewel-like spiral galaxy is a bright spot. It is so milky white it looks almost like a moon, but in reality it is a black hole. Like all other galaxies the very centre of RX J1140.1+0307 is a black hole, it just has a much lower mass. In fact, it has the lowest known mass of any luminous galactic core.

“What puzzles scientists about this particular galaxy is that the calculations don’t add up. With such a relatively low mass for the central black hole, models for the emission from the object cannot explain the observed spectrum. There must be other mechanisms at play in the interactions between the inner and outer parts of the accretion disk surrounding the black hole,” writes the ESA.

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA


9. Collision in progress


Pictured are two spiral galaxies colliding. This object is known as IRAS 14348-1447. But when you read collide, please don’t imagine tow fluffy kittens falling into each other: imagine a long-term cosmic crisis. A collision takes place over hundreds of millions of years.

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA


10. The megamaser


This galaxy is special because it housed a maser greater than any other: a megamaser. Need some clarity? The ESA explains a megamaser as follows: “A megamaser is a process where some components within a galaxy (like gas clouds) are in the right stimulated physical condition to radiate intense energy (in this case, microwaves). The entire galaxy essentially acts as an astronomical laser that beams out microwave emission rather than visible light (hence the ‘m’ replacing the ‘l’).” So megamaser instead of megalaser.

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA