NASA-ESA's Hubble captures stunning spiral barred twin of the Milky Way galaxy

The Wide Field Camera 3, which captured the image has been in use since 2009, with 2,40,000+ observations to its name.

NASA and ESA's Hubble Telescope has taken a hauntingly beautiful image of a spiral galaxy 357 million light-years away — a twin barred spiral of our own Milky Way.

The galaxy NGC 7773 pictured is located in the constellation of Pegasus and is remarkably similar in its structure to our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Both are barred galaxies i.e. have a bright bar passing through the heart of the galaxies. Since these galaxies develop over time, scientists think that these bars could be indicators for how old and mature the galaxies are. Even in barred spirals, the smaller or younger galaxies don't have bars or appear less commonly, as the bars come to exists with age as more stars get pulled closer to the centre.

NASA-ESAs Hubble captures stunning spiral barred twin of the Milky Way galaxy

NGC 7773 is a barred spiral galaxy that exists 357 billion light-years away from Earth. Image credit: NASA/Hubble telescope

NASA calls these barred galaxies "limelight-hogging celestial objects combine whirling, pinwheeling arms with scatterings of sparkling stars, glowing bursts of gas, and dark, weaving lanes of cosmic dust, creating truly awesome scenes."

They are thought to be nurseries for young stars as they burn bright due to the countless numbers of young stars that are born in the spiral galactic arms. By studying other galaxies, scientists hope to understand our galaxy and the processes that took place to form the structure of the Milky Way. The image can also go a long way in helping astronomers understand clusters of stars and dust and even the effects of dark matter on clusters of stars and galaxies.

The Hubble Space Telescope in orbit above Earth. Image: NASA

The Hubble Space Telescope in orbit above Earth. Image credit: NASA

The Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) on the Hubble telescope was used to capture this image, made from a collaboration between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA). The WFC3 had been installed in the telescope in 2009 and is usually responsible for most of the incredible images that come out from space.

On 8 January 2019, the camera suddenly shut down due to some technical error. However, technicians reset the camera to its former glory, Till date, WFC3 has made upwards of 240,000 observations, making it the most widely used instrument in the Hubble telescope.

Even the Hubble telescope has continued to live well past its 15-year lifespan — now in its 29th year.

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