Image Credit: Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona

Meet NGC 3359: a delicate spiral galaxy that lurks within the confines of the Ursa Major constellation, approximately 50 million light-years from Earth.

While it appears pretty standard, it does have a few quirks that separate it from other spiral galaxies. Of course, the most obvious of which is the strange nature of its inner structure, which can be attributed to the elongated bar smack dab in its central core.

Research conducted on this area revealed that the bar is much younger than the galaxy itself is, with the stars coming in at only 500 million years old (in contrast, much of the galaxy’s stellar population is composed of stars that are several billions of years old).

Additionally, NGC 3356 hosts many H II regions, or places where new stars are actively being churned out (they can be seen in pinkish-red). By many estimates, it has over 100 stellar nurseries, and more are popping up all the time.

Adam Block, the astrophotographer who took this image, explains further: “The sweeping arms of NGC 3359 are full of color with the punctuated pinks of star forming regions against the bluish arms which are filled with energetic young stars. Although the galaxy is 30-40 million light years away, the brightness, form and “drama” of the galaxy makes it stand out among galaxies at similar distances. Viewers with a good monitor and good eyes will note two very faint arms that wrap around this splendid galaxy.”


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