Friday, February 3, 2012
The Hubble space telescope has captured an image of a "barred spiral" galaxy that could help us better understand our own Milky Way.
Most of the known spiral galaxies fall into this "barred" category - which are defined by the pronounced bar structure across their centres.
The presence of this structure may be an indication of a galaxy's age.
Two-thirds of nearby, younger galaxies have the bar, while only a fifth of older, more distant spirals have it.
The new picture also continues the Hubble space telescope's long heritage of striking astronomical images.
In the upper left of the image is a cluster showing recent star formation that is just visible to Hubble's cameras.
But it is a bright source in X-ray light; astronomers believe that this IXO-5 X-ray source is actually a "binary" system comprising a star and a black hole in mutual orbit.