(Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Det58)

This image, which was taken with the High Resolution Channel of Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys, zeroes in on one of the most memorable members of the Messier catalog. Called Messier 61 (also known as NGC 4303), it can be found 55 million light-years from Earth in the constellation of Virgo.

Hubble's rendition shows the galaxy's central core in unprecedented detail. In addition to its impressive nucleus, the galaxy is sprawling in size, spanning approximately 100,000 light-years across (making it roughly the same size as the Milky Way). They also have something else in common: both belong to the same galaxy group: the Virgo Supercluster (which contains a grand total of 1,300-2,000 galaxies).

They differ in many ways as well. The big distinction lies in the fact that Messier 61 is classified as a starburst galaxy, meaning it is currenting producing stars at a fervent rate, and burning through its hydrogen gas supply at an equally fast speed. This, with help from the supermassive black hole known to lurk within the dusty core, makes Messier 61 so beautiful to look at

This is merely one version of this dataset. It was originally submitted to Hubble’s Hidden Treasures image processing competition by Flickr user, Det58.


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