Hubble’s View of M74

During many holidays, the folks working on NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope try and find an image that captures the essence of the celebration. We’ve seen Christmas Tree clusters and spooky nebulae. To show their holiday spirit, the Hubble folks have released this beautiful image of the spiral galaxy M74. It’s a stretch, I guess, but wow, what a picture.

From the original Hubble news release, here’s how they describe the photograph.

Hubble has sent back an early Christmas card with this new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image of the nearby spiral galaxy Messier 74. It is an enchanting reminder of the impending season. Resembling glittering baubles on a holiday wreath, bright knots of glowing gas light up the spiral arms; regions of new star birth shining in pink.

Messier 74 is one of the best examples we can see of a “grand design” spiral galaxy, much like our own Milky Way. In the case of M74, it’s conveniently facing face on, so we can see intricate details in all parts of the galaxy’s structure.

The bright pink areas in the spiral arms are huge, short lived clouds of hydrogen gas glowing from the newborn stars inside them. The dark dust lanes that extend out along the spiral arms contain a new generation of blue stars.

M74 was first discovered by the French astronomer Pierre Mechain in 1780, and then added to Charles Messier’s famous catalogue of deep sky objects. Of all the objects in the catalogue, it’s one of the faintest, and has been nicknamed “The Phantom Galaxy” by amateur astronomers trying to spot it in their telescopes.

So thanks Hubble, feel free to celebrate any holiday, celebration or random even you like. Just keep the pictures coming.

Original Source: Hubble News Release