And the Winner Is …

Article written: 3 Apr , 2009
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
by

Earlier this week, the Hubble Space Telescope photographed the winning target in the Space Telescope Science Institute’s “You Decide” competition in celebration of the International Year of Astronomy.

The winning object, above, received 67,021 votes out of the nearly 140,000 votes cast for the six candidate targets.


Arp 274, also known as NGC 5679, is a system of three galaxies that appear to be partially overlapping in the image, although they may be at somewhat different distances. The spiral shapes of two of these galaxies appear mostly intact. The third galaxy (to the far left) is more compact, but shows evidence of star formation.

Two of the three galaxies are forming new stars at a high rate. This is evident in the bright blue knots of star formation that are strung along the arms of the galaxy on the right and along the small galaxy on the left.

The largest component is located in the middle of the three. It appears as a spiral galaxy, which may be barred. The entire system resides at about 400 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation Virgo.

Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 was used to image Arp 274. Blue, visible, and infrared filters were combined with a filter that isolates hydrogen emission. The colors in this image reflect the intrinsic color of the different stellar populations that make up the galaxies. Yellowish older stars can be seen in the central bulge of each galaxy. A bright central cluster of stars pinpoint each nucleus. Younger blue stars trace the spiral arms, along with pinkish nebulae that are illuminated by new star formation. Interstellar dust is silhouetted against the starry population. A pair of foreground stars inside our own Milky Way are at far right.

The International Year of Astronomy is the celebration of the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first observations with a telescope. The ongoing “100 Hours of Astronomy,” April 2 to 5, is part of the fun, geared toward encouraging as many people as possible to experience the night sky.

Image credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Livio and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

For images, videos, and more information about Arp 274, visit the Hubble site,  the Hubble Heritage Project , NASA’s Hubble site or 100 Hours of Astronomy



21 Responses

  1. star grazer says

    A very wise choice!!!!

  2. Salacious B. Crumb says

    What a total joke. This image is about as useful as a Jehovah Witness at a Dracula convention!
    It seems these galaxies are merely aligned and are not interacting at all – EU, gravitationally or anything else.
    Thousands of interacting galaxies to chose from, and the dummies just had to pick this one! Frankly, next time leave the choices of astronomical objects to the professionals astronomers instead of the public who would even know the difference between the quasars and non-existent Martians.

  3. C's says

    Cool! I voted for this target 🙂

  4. star grazer says

    SBC-I knew they did not interact, it was just the beauty of the galaxies. I enjoy your comments as you are very intellegent and have a sense of humor doing your patented ‘gravity slams’ versus OIM ‘electro choke hold’ lol .
    My real favorite is M33 but, this one won.

  5. huygens says

    They are like Paris Hilton – pretty but useless.

  6. Isn’t that a bit of an ad hominem attack, huygens? How bad would you feel if Ms. Hilton showed up to read that?
    Juuust a joke …

  7. Dave Finton says

    I have no problem with this picture winning. Note that the contest’s parameters for “your choice” was loosely defined, and people picked the prettiest candidate.

    Note that the most scientifically useful images out there by any telescope, even by Hubble, also tend to be the most drab-looking. When you get a picture that prompts the comment “Oh look, here’s a super-nova in this galaxy that gives us a highly accurate estimate on the Galaxy’s distance from us!”, all you really see is a pixelated white blob. Useful? Yes. Pretty? Not really. =)

  8. Layman says

    A stunningly beautiful picture, I wish that we could look into the night sky and see something like this! It would make us all realize how small we really are.

  9. ND says

    If I remember right, they were called “the hugging galaxies”. I’m guessing there was an awwww factor from that 🙂

  10. R2K says

    There can never be a bad hubble image.

    But as predicted, this is not nearly as good as the nebula would have been. It just looks like the usual galaxy image.

  11. Jon Hanford says

    I couldn’t disagree more with some earlier posts claiming no interactions in this system. Just the appearance of HII regions concurrently in all three galaxies argues to the contrary. Star forming periods in galaxies are not long persisting conditions, thus making the choice for some interaction starbursts phenomenon plausible.

  12. Marco says

    @ huygens,

    You are wrong. Paris Hilton is only useless.

    This is a beautiful photo.

  13. HeadAroundU says

    I bet that Paris Hilton makes more money than both of you. Pretty? NO. Just a grey average.

    Very cool image, those 2 Milky Way stars make it better.

  14. Jon Hanford says

    After checking with the NASA-IPAC Extragalactic Database (NED), they listed these galaxies as a probable optical ‘pair’, citing a relative velocity difference between the two main spirals as >1000 km/s. By measure of the apparent size of HII regions in all 3 galaxies, they must be at least nearby in local space, perhaps just beginning their gravitational dance. In any case, still a beautiful picture of three star-forming galaxies.

  15. Marco says

    @ HeadAroundU

    “I bet that Paris Hilton makes more money than both of you.”

    What a truly nonsensical statement. I do not doubt that I make/have a lot more money than you. Does that make me smarter, better, more moral, better looking, more important, or in any way more worthy than you. No. On the other hand, your statement makes you a bit more silly than the rest of the folks who post here. Try not to be as vapid as she is.

  16. Astrofiend says

    To those who rubbish he image for it’s ‘lack’ of scientific merit – you completely miss the point. There is a reason that 99.9% of Hubble observing time is dedicated to the scientists, but this one observation was put to the public – it was a publicity image. So who cares if it’s not chock full of science? The public paid for this little instrument that has given us so much science. So let them chose one image for a shot. Too bad if it’s not the one you would have chosen.

    Among Hubble’s most valuable contributions to science has been it’s effect on the average member of the public, who perhaps cannot quite comprehend what they see in these Hubble images to the same extent as some of us, but who is fascinated none-the-less. If such people are persuaded of the beauty, wonder and value of science by viewing such images, then we should be dedicating more Hubble time to such projects, not less. Actually, we do have such a thing – it’s called the Hubble Heritage project, and it may be among Hubble’s most visible and important legacies.

  17. Salacious B. Crumb says

    @ Astrofiend
    I choose this image too in the vote. Clearly I didn’t know what I was doing.
    Curiosity is one thing, spending the billions of dollars to achieve a definitive outcome is another.
    I for one prefer to leave it in the professional hands!

    Really. Considering I.e. the number of brilliant southern objects that Hubble has missed to satisfy the northern continents populous shows how much the Hubble Space Telescope guys have already sacrificed for continued popular support. I say – leave it to the professionals who dedicate their careers and aspirations to doing what they were trained for. Please, instead, show me something that means something (other than obnoxious fictions in, say, EU!)

  18. Astrofiend says

    Salacious B. Crumb Says:
    April 5th, 2009 at 10:19 am

    Fair enough.

  19. Jon Hanford says

    @ Sal B Crumb: Do you really think the time allocation teams (NASA-ESA) for Hubble consider what hemisphere potential science targets are located? Do you have any statistical info about this claim. There may be a discrepancy in images collected and combined for public consumption, but I’d need to see stats for that, too. I’d say a fair amount (90%) of all Hubble images are not seen by the public at all, just used by professionals to extrapolate data from. Potential targets for Hubble exist in both (celestial) hemispheres & Hubble’s in a great place to image them all!

  20. Jon Hanford says

    Forgot to mention that all raw images from Hubble can be found (in FITS format) from links at the STScI, which I am downloading, processing and creating my own collection of Hubble pics.

  21. huygens says

    Anne Minard said:

    “Isn’t that a bit of an ad hominem attack, huygens? How bad would you feel if Ms. Hilton showed up to read that?
    Juuust a joke …”

    I wouldn’t feel bad – I would be utterly stunned that she even had a clue there was a Universe outside of her!

    Plus you’re assuming she actually knows how to read.

    And for the dipstick who made the comment about Hilton having more money than me – uh DUH!

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