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Hubble space telescope captures stunning image of barred spiral galaxy

October 14th, 2015 at 6:45 PM

The Hubble space telescope has captured a stunning image of a faraway galaxy known as a barred spiral.

Galaxy NGC 4639 is located over 70 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation of Virgo. NGC 4639 is one of about 1500 galaxies that make up the Virgo Cluster, according to the European Space Agency (ESA), one of NASA’s Hubble partners.

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The image clearly shows a “bar” running through the galaxy’s bright, round core, the ESA said, in a statement. “Bars are found in around two thirds of spiral galaxies, and are thought to be a natural phase in their evolution,” it added.

NGC 4639’s arms are “sprinkled with bright regions of active star formation,” according to the ESA. “Each of these tiny jewels is actually several hundred light-years across and contains hundreds or thousands of newly formed stars,” it explained.

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However, scientists note that the galaxy contains a dark secret at its core – a massive black hole that is consuming the surrounding gas. “This is known as an active galactic nucleus (AGN), and is revealed by characteristic features in the spectrum of light from the galaxy and by X-rays produced close to the black hole as the hot gas plunges towards it,” said the ESA.

The Hubble space telescope, which was launched by NASA in 1990, celebrated its 25th anniversary earlier this year.

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