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A Sword of Stars

The stars and dust of spiral galaxy NGC 891 seen by Hubble edge-on

Like the blade of a magical weapon from a fantasy tale, the northern edge of spiral galaxy NGC 891 is captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, glowing with the light of billions of stars and interwoven with dark clouds of dust and cold gas.

In reality this cosmic blade is enormous. About the same size as our galaxy, NGC 891 is approximately 100,000 light-years in diameter, making the section visible here around 40,000 light-years in length.

Unlike the Milky Way, however, NGC 891 is unbarred and also exhibits many more filaments of dark gas and dust. Astronomers suggest that these are the result of star formation and supernovae, both of which can expel vast amounts of interstellar material far out into space.

The few bright stars in the foreground are located in our own galaxy.

NGC 891 is located in the constellation Andromeda and lies about 30 million light-years away… that means the light captured by Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys to create the image above began its journey 35 million years after the asteroid impact that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs, and about 26 million years before our ancient African ancestors began walking upright. That may sound like a long trip but, as Douglas Adams so eloquently said, “that’s just peanuts to space!”

Read more on the Hubble site here.

Image credit: ESA/Hubble and NASA



A graphic designer in Rhode Island, Jason writes about space exploration on his blog Lights In The Dark, Discovery News, and, of course, here on Universe Today. Ad astra!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • gopher652003 May 14, 2012, 5:37 PM

    Some of those edge on spirals are beautiful:).

    • backinbowl May 14, 2012, 5:56 PM

      And that’s still understating the absolute glory of this view! :-)

  • DrFlimmer May 14, 2012, 5:39 PM

    So, this is a light saber, then? I guess, Luke Skywalker left it on a shelf for some time before using it again. It’s a little bit dusty. 😉

    • Jason Major May 14, 2012, 9:19 PM

      If you’re a Playstation fan, it kind of reminds me of the Soul Reaver too. All spectral and flamberge-y like that.