Hubble snaps a spiral streak side-on

Posted by Thomas Anderson

NASA's space telescope has captured a rather impressive image of a thin, glittering streak of stars known as the spiral galaxy ESO 121-6, which lies in the southern constellation of Pictor (The Painter's Easel).

Viewed almost exactly side-on, the intricate structure of the swirling arms is hidden, but the full length of the galaxy can be seen - including the intense glow from the central bulge, a dense region of tightly packed young stars located at the center of the spiral arms.

Tendrils of dark dust can be seen across the frame, partially obscuring the bright center of the galaxy and continuing out towards the smattering of stars at its edges, where the dust lanes and shapes melt into the inky background.

Numerous nearby stars and galaxies are visible as small smudges in the surrounding sky, and the brightest stars are dazzlingly prominent towards the bottom left of the image.

According to NASA astronomers, ESO 121-6 can best be described as a galaxy with patchy, loosely-wound arms and a relatively faint central bulge.

It actually belongs to a group of galaxies, a clump of no more than 50 similar structures all loosely bound to one another by gravity. Of course, our very own Milky Way is also a member of a galactic group, aptly dubbed the Local Group.