Hubble Peers at Galactic Cherry Blossoms

July 12, 2019

From NASA

Galactic Cherry Blossom

The galaxy NGC 1156 resembles a delicate cherry blossom tree flowering in springtime in this Hubble image. The many bright “blooms” within the galaxy are in fact stellar nurseries — regions where new stars are springing to life. Energetic light emitted by newborn stars in these regions streams outwards and encounters nearby pockets of hydrogen gas, causing the gas to glow with a characteristic pink hue.

NGC 1156 is located in the constellation of Aries (the Ram). It is classified as a dwarf irregular galaxy, meaning that it lacks a clear spiral or rounded shape, as other galaxies have, and is on the smaller side, albeit with a relatively large central region that is more densely packed with stars.

Some pockets of gas within NGC 1156 rotate in the opposite direction to the rest of the galaxy, suggesting that there has been a close encounter with another galaxy in NGC 1156’s past. The gravity of this other galaxy — and the turbulent chaos of such an interaction — could have scrambled the likely more orderly rotation of material within NGC 1156, producing the odd behavior we see today.

Text credit: ESA (European Space Agency)
Image credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA, R. Jansen

Last Updated: July 12, 2019

Editor: Rob Garner

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13 thoughts on “Hubble Peers at Galactic Cherry Blossoms

  1. You need cherry blossoms to get cherries to pick, NASA, if that accusation is accurate. Geoff S

  2. Hubble has been one of the best scientific investments we’ve made. Tons of new data.
    It would have been better if Perkin-Elmer had not messed up the mirror in the first place and we had not lost a few years of observation. They should have chipped in for the shuttle mission to repair it.

    • The mirror polishing error turned out as a valuable learning experience (teachable moment) for everyone.

      From process engineers and quality control engineers training in every technical program and text book, to NASA figuring out how to fix it successfully… classic process failures and solutions.
      Hubble, being in LEO, with the shuttle (post-Challenger) and a NASA without the ISS yet to support, it was a convergence of a solutions looking for a problem.

      There were several key points along the way where the defect could have been detected before mating to the upper stage motor. None of course were carried out. A teachable moment each one. Fortunately the defect was so “perfect”, the corrective lenses were possible. Hubble has gone on to do great things.

      So for all the folks out there with less than 20/20 vision (like moi), don’t let glasses get in the way. And tell you kids or grandkids that who wear glasses.

      • I seem to recall that the error resulted in well over $1 billion in additional costs and delays, at a time when a billion was a lot of money.

    • The lab tech missed the note saying it was not one of the dozens of spy satellite mirrors they were used to making which had a slightly shorter focal length. All the BS about the paint chip on the measuring rod is so obviously contrived and was just an excuse to avoid talking about the downward looking, military grade mirrors they usually made in the same lab.

      They did a good job of creating corrective optics but obviously any extra elements reduces ultimate optical resolution of the instrument. Hubble could have been even better if they had got it right first time. Sadly the bureaucratic rot was already destroying NASA by this time.

  3. Could the irregular flow of hydrogen they describe account for this new star formation by forming eddies which then condense into a star?

  4. “a delicate cherry blossom tree flowering in springtime”

    is a “cherry blossom tree” any different to a cherry tree? Do they flower ( or even blossom ) at any other time of year. In their never ending attempts to patronise and talk down to the public when publicising science, they are tripping over their own metaphores and cant even write a coherent sentence.

    Maybe the meant is looks (kinda) like a cherry tree in blossom.

    Sadly they forgot to tell us how big it was in football fields and olympic swimming pools. Fortunately they did explain to us that the term “dwarf” meant it was a bit on the small side.

    I guess that goes along with their dwarf climate emergency.

    • (chuckling) Yes, Greg, I concur. Poor Rob Garner, Editor, currently on summer vacation. His summer intern whose second language is English actually wrote it, but, HIS name is on that writing (doh!).

      And, while, yes, I can see the cherry tree blossoming, I think it more closely resembles a bouquet of about 4 dozen long-stemmed, red, roses…. a bit heavy on the Baby’s Breath (viewed mostly from the top, the wrapping and stems cloaked in the darkness below due to Hubble using flash 😉 ) .

      VERY glad, nevertheless, to read about something REAL. Something produced by excellent engineering. Go, all honest engineers, everywhere!!! 🙂 They deal in data and reproducible results.

  5. Rah Roh! Not politically correct to call a galaxy a “dwarf”. Call it “size-challenged”. 😉

    Seriously, dwarf galaxies can be quite active, as this one and also the Large Magellanic Cloud.

  6. Some pockets of gas within NGC 1156 rotate in the opposite direction to the rest of the galaxy, suggesting that there has been a close encounter with another galaxy in NGC 1156’s past. The gravity of this other galaxy — and the turbulent chaos of such an interaction — could have scrambled the likely more orderly rotation of material within NGC 1156, producing the odd behavior we see today.

    Great! Most new findings stem from “irregularities”.

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