Image credit: ESO

In this color composite, captured using the Wide-Field Imager (WFI) on the MPG/ESO 2.2-m telescope at the La Silla , we see a spiral galaxy, dubbed NGC 300, about 6 million light-years away from Earth in the Sculptor constellation (it was once believed to be a member of a cluster of galaxies of the same name, called the Sculptor Group).

Such a relatively close distance, at least cosmologically speaking, makes NGC 300 (and its respective neighbors) the closest galaxies beyond our local group of galaxies. Now that its membership is no longer in question, astronomers have concluded that it's tucked away in a portion of spacetime that lies between our own galaxy and  the Sculptor Group.

It's also incredibly bright, which stems from a large number of hot, massive and incredibly bright O-type stars. The image to the left, which was captured using Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), shows many of these stars (along with the residual glow left behind following the destruction of many of these huge stars) in unprecedented resolution. If you view the much-larger image linked to below, you'll see that the view is so detailed, you can even make out individual stars (that is, until you get into the most chaotic and brightly lit part).

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI)

The image here is once again a composite, put together using  filtered images taken at various wavelength, showcasing the different facets of the galaxy and its star-making mechanisms. We see that the most densely packed regions — other than its central core, of course — are within the galaxy's spiral arms. Dozens of dark red ribbons represent places where interstellar dust has gathered at such large quantities, they block some of the light of stars forming from within.

Lastly, several years ago, astronomers even discovered a stellarmass black hole lurking within the galaxy, with the combined mass of 20 suns. Its partner, an unstable star called a Wolf–Rayet star, is being stripped of its stellar envelope currently. The pair dance around each other in just 32 hours. Eventually, it will be bled dry

See a larger image (top right) here, or (bottom left) here.


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