Stunning NASA Hubble Photograph Reveals a Blue Galaxy Spiraling Towards the Milky Way

Tuesday, 04 June 2019 - 11:48AM
Space Imagery
Astrophysics
Space
Tuesday, 04 June 2019 - 11:48AM
Stunning NASA Hubble Photograph Reveals a Blue Galaxy Spiraling Towards the Milky Way
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Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, W. Sargent et al. CC BY 4.0
A recent NASA Hubble photograph reveals that the Messier 90 galaxy is headed our way, according to reports. This is a rare thing indeed: most galaxies are, in fact, moving away from each other thanks to universal expansion. Although we won't be neighbors any time soon – Messier 90 is still some 59 million light-years away – this photograph serves as an important confirmation for scientists.

At such a distance, you might understandably wonder how scientists can even tell whether it's getting closer or not. The answer lies in a phenomenon called "blueshift." (Yes, smartass, there is also a redshift, and it is a component of Einstein's theory of general relativity.) Visible light is measured in wavelengths; red has the longest, and these wavelengths get shorter as you progress through the color spectrum. According to an official statement from Hubble scientists:

"The galaxy is compressing the wavelength of its light as it moves towards us, like a slinky being squashed when you push on one end."

You can see the very distinct blue tones in the photograph above, which is a combination of visible light, infrared, and ultraviolet that was captured on the Hubble's Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2. This camera took some of the breathtaking photographs that first made the Hubble Telescope famous, although it has since been replaced with the more advanced Wide Field Camera 3.

Messier 90 is part of the Virgo Cluster – a collection of approximately 1,200 galaxies located in the eponymous constellation – and it's not the only one that's acting strangely. Researchers posit that this cluster's immense mass is hurling its galaxies outward along bizarre paths at incredible speeds. To get a first-hand look at a galaxy cluster, watch this flythrough video below using real images taken from Hubble:



Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, W. Sargent et al. CC BY 4.0
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