Serpens galaxy slithers through new Hubble photo (Image Credit: Space.com)
One of its latest photos captures the spiral galaxy NGC 5921, which lies just shy of 80 million light-years away from Earth. Like our Milky Way — and potentially half of all the spiral galaxies in the universe — the galaxy is barred, meaning its center features a long, straight structure of stars, off which the spiraling arms emerge.
The image was taken as part of a joint study between the Hubble Space Telescope and the ground-based Gemini Observatory, which has outposts in Hawaii and Chile.
“These two observatories joined forces to better understand the relationship between galaxies like NGC 5921 and the supermassive black holes they contain,” the European Space Agency (ESA), which contributes to the Hubble project, wrote in an image caption. “Hubble’s contribution to the study was to determine the masses of stars in the galaxies and also to take measurements that help calibrate the observations from Gemini.”
To capture the image, Hubble used its Wide Field Camera 3, the observatory’s most powerful instrument. The camera can photograph in ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared light, which is frequently used to contribute to deep-sky surveys, according to NASA.
Galaxy NGC 5921 was discovered by astronomer William Herschel in 1786 and is located in the constellation Serpens. “Serpens is the only one of the 88 modern constellations to consist of two unconnected regions,” ESA officials note, pointing out the interesting parallel to the split-observatory study. Galaxy NGC 5921 is located in Serpens Caput, or the Serpent’s Head. The second part of the constellation, on the opposite side of the constellation Ophiuchus, is Serpens Cauda, or Serpent’s Tail.