A Galaxy With a Big “S” on Its Chest

by Nancy Atkinson on February 7, 2011

Super galaxy, NGC 157. Credit: ESO

Can galaxy NGC 157 leap tall buildings in a single bound, stop a speeding bullet or bend steel in it’s bare hands? This relatively mild-mannered galaxy has a central sweep of stars that resembles a giant “S”, almost just like the comic book hero Superman’s symbol. The image was taken by the HAWK-I (High-Acuity Wide-field K-band Imager) on the Very Large Telescope in Chile. HAWK-I looks in infrared light, allowing us to peer through the gas and dust that normally obscures our view and see parts of NCG 157 that otherwise is hidden from our optical view.

Looking at this and other galaxies like it, astronomers can learn about star formation, as the same processes that are coalescing material and creating stars in NGC 157 also took place around 4.5 billion years ago in the Milky Way to form our own star, the Sun.

NGC 157 is faint — about magnitude 11, but can be seen bigger amateur telescopes. It is located within the constellation of Cetus (the Sea Monster).

For those interested in observing this object, see this post on WikiSky.

And just in case you don’t get the Superman references:

Source: ESO

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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