NASA’s Christmas present to the world was a photo of a galaxy 60 million light years away.
NASA released a new Hubble Space Telescope image of a galaxy in the Fornax Galaxy Cluster 60 million light years from Earth.
The galaxy, IC 335, is in a galaxy group that contains three other galaxies. Astronomers classify galaxies as elliptical, spiral, or irregular. However, IC 335 appears to fall in more than one category, but this may be due to the vantage point from Earth, which causes us to see only IC 335’s edge. Dr. Jay M. Pasachoff, astronomy professor at Williams College and co-author of The Cosmos: Astronomy in the New Millennium, explained IC 335 belongs to two categories.
“It clearly isn’t an elliptical galaxy since it looks flat, but it doesn’t seem to have matter between the stars,” Pasachoff told The Huffington Post, “so the scientists involved classify it as an intermediate type between spirals and ellipticals.”
NASA stated the arms of a spiral or the bar across the center, common characteristics of a galaxy’s morphology, are only visible in the face of IC 335. The lenticular galaxy is somewhere between a true spiral and a true elliptical galaxy.
“They have a thin stellar disk and a bulge, like spiral galaxies, but in contrast to typical spiral galaxies they have used up most of the interstellar medium,” NASA stated.
IC 335 is made up of mostly aging stars, and its star formation rate is low. This is often the case for elliptical galaxies. These galaxies passively evolve, but they have usually had violent interactions with other galaxies before. Fading spiral galaxies usually do not interact with other galaxies, and sometimes two spiral galaxies as they age will merge into one. Both are “early” galaxy types as they continue to evolve passively while we observe.
NASA noted there is still much we do not understand about galaxies, but we can expect to see many more wonders from the Hubble Space Telescope.