Hubble Captures Galactic Glamour Shot


Oct. 2, 2020

Hubble Captures Galactic Glamour Shot

spiral galaxy NGC 5643 with a bright, barred center and vaguely purplish swirling arms

This stunning image by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope features the spiral galaxy NGC 5643 in the constellation of Lupus (the Wolf). Looking this good isn’t easy; 30 different exposures, for a total of nine hours of observation time, together with the high resolution and clarity of Hubble, were needed to produce an image of such high level of detail and beauty.

NGC 5643 is about 60 million light-years away from Earth and has been the host of a recent supernova event (not visible in this latest image). This supernova (2017cbv) was a specific type in which a white dwarf steals so much mass from a companion star that it becomes unstable and explodes. The explosion releases significant amounts of energy and lights up that part of the galaxy.

The observation was proposed by Adam Riess, who (alongside Saul Perlmutter and Brian Schmidt) was awarded a Nobel Prize in physics in 2011 for his contributions to the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe.

Text credit: ESA (European Space Agency)
Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, A. Riess et al.; acknowledgment: Mahdi Zamani
Last Updated: Oct. 2, 2020Editor: Rob Garner

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Climate believer
October 9, 2020 2:59 am

That telescope has been really an incredible “bang for one’s buck”.

What’s the brown smoky, marbling effect?

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Climate believer
October 9, 2020 3:56 am


Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
October 9, 2020 7:21 am

It is an odd place for a dust band though. Usually they align with the arms. There is some weirdness with the angular momentum of that thing.

Reply to  Climate believer
October 9, 2020 3:59 am

What’s the brown smoky, marbling effect?

Those running their Earth-like planet in that galaxy were the inspiration for California’s forest management policy.

John Tillman
Reply to  Climate believer
October 9, 2020 4:16 am


Reply to  John Tillman
October 9, 2020 4:24 am

Lots of dust. It’s likely a star nursery. I’ve seen photos of infant stars leaving clouds like that, trailing behind them what looks distinctly like an umbilical cord. Just amazing how similar things are from one setting to another.

John Tillman
Reply to  Sara
October 9, 2020 10:36 am

Yup. The universe never ceases to amaze and surprise.

Now if we could just figure out how to image the halo of dark matter…

Reply to  Climate believer
October 9, 2020 2:22 pm

“Hubble images are all false color – meaning they start out as black and white, and are then colored. Most often this is to highlight interesting features of the object in the image, as well as to make the data more meaningful. Sometimes colors are chosen to make them look as our eyes would see them, called “natural color,” but not always.”,see%20them%2C%20called%20%E2%80%9Cnatural%20color%2C%E2%80%9D%20but%20not%20always.

Ron Long
October 9, 2020 3:04 am

Spectacular! Hubble has found everything except Jimmy Hoffa. Amazing how large the Universe is.

October 9, 2020 4:10 am

Sorry if it is ignorant, but why do several stars shine as if seen through the atmosphere?

Carl Friis-Hansen
Reply to  Macspee
October 9, 2020 4:37 am

Wild guess:
Bodies, dust and gas slightly changing the opacity.

Nice photo by the way.

When Hubble came out with the fist images, we were a few saying it was a waste of money and effort, but now I would not complain.

Reply to  Carl Friis-Hansen
October 9, 2020 5:12 am

…it was a waste of money and effort…

In the grand scheme of things, what isn’t?

I remember one day at Silverstone they interviewed George Harrison over the Tannoy system between practice runs and asked him “what he thought of Formula One?”

“It’s a fantastic way to waste money”

Roy Spencer
Reply to  Macspee
October 9, 2020 5:09 am

you might be referring to the diffraction spikes from the struts that support the telescope’s secondary mirror. This occurs in reflector type telescopes, or camera zoom lenses that use diaphragm blades to stop down the lens. They are messy in this composite image because (apparently) the telescope was rotated at different angles when taking different images.

Joe Campbell
Reply to  Roy Spencer
October 9, 2020 7:37 am

Thanks, Roy. From quick inspection, all of the “spikes” in the star’s images seem to be the same…

Reply to  Joe Campbell
October 9, 2020 12:38 pm



Mayor of Venus
Reply to  Roy Spencer
October 9, 2020 5:31 pm

Exactly right. I was wondering why so many diffraction spikes instead of the normal 3 or 4, until I read this image is a composite, and as you suggest, each image taken at an angle different from the others.

Reply to  Roy Spencer
October 10, 2020 2:08 am

maybe the effect is intentional?

Reply to  Macspee
October 9, 2020 5:24 am

Dumb guess…Stars within our own Galaxy that were between the camera and the target galaxy. The nearer stars are merely out of focus compared to the target.

Jim in FL
Reply to  DonK31
October 9, 2020 7:35 am

Nope. Since all the objects in the image are essentially infinitely distant from the camera, everything you see is in focus.

Reply to  Macspee
October 9, 2020 10:23 am

They are local stars – in our galaxy between earth and the spiral galaxy. The dust clouds are in the Milky Way as well.

stephen richards
Reply to  Macspee
October 9, 2020 10:33 am

Can be due to the telescope. Newtonian type telescopes, there are several flavours, form a diffraction cross caused by the arms holding the secondary mirror. I don’t know if this is so on the hubble.

Mike McMillan
Reply to  Macspee
October 10, 2020 12:35 am

If you mean the bright stars that have rays coming from them, those are stars in our galaxy, each much brighter than the big galaxy in the image. The rays are diffraction caused by the four arms supporting the telescope secondary mirror. The reason for so many rays is that the image is a composite of 6 images taken at different times, when the galaxy was in different rotations compared to the arms.

Harry Passfield
October 9, 2020 5:49 am

That is too beautiful for words – more-so when enlarged. Thank you!

October 9, 2020 6:04 am

At what distance does the Hubble finally stop seeing a red Tesla with a driver on board ?

October 9, 2020 6:18 am

Many think the Milky Way looks very similar to this w/the prominent bar. Some of the dust and gas that was expelled very early on in the galaxy’s history VERY slowly makes it’s way back along the bar toward the center.

Reply to  beng135
October 9, 2020 9:14 am

But the center looks bright. Therefore no “black hole” like someone recently “found” at the center of the Milky Way!

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  UV Meter
October 9, 2020 9:32 am

That doesn’t disprove the existence of a black hole in the center. It just means it’s surrounded by visible matter, hence, you can’t see it.

Reply to  UV Meter
October 9, 2020 10:17 am

The bright center is an indication of a black hole that has gases being spiraled into it which causes heating of the gases. There could be more than one black hole.

Reply to  T.C. Clark
October 9, 2020 1:42 pm

Interesting. So no black holes have ever been “observed” as being black? They are just assumed to be within very bright areas at centers of galaxies? They emit no special signatures of radiation that are unique to their super density?

Reply to  UV Meter
October 10, 2020 7:27 am

very bright areas at centers of galaxies

Bright areas of galaxy centers w/stars very closely orbiting an enormous mass….

October 9, 2020 6:26 am

It appears as the central dust bar is at 90 degrees to the larger spiral arms.

Mayor of Venus
Reply to  beng135
October 9, 2020 5:36 pm

Really nice image, and no diffraction spikes on this one.

Matheus Carvalho
October 9, 2020 8:07 am

This guy here does interesting analyses of galaxies:

Reply to  Matheus Carvalho
October 9, 2020 9:13 pm

Cosmology – as I understand it – shows that you can have serious debates in a field without bringing politics into it.

October 9, 2020 8:15 am

Pretty signals.

Wayne Job
October 9, 2020 8:25 pm

Dark matter and black holes are imaginary so that astronomers could make sense of what they see.
It is not necessarily so. There are other explanations.

Reply to  Wayne Job
October 9, 2020 9:30 pm

I am certainly not qualified to make definitive statements about such things, but I am convinced that there are good arguments for AND against the Big Bang and black holes. It’s not “settled” at all, and I suspect that a lot of scientists are going to be disappointed in how their beliefs about such things might be completely wrong. We’ll see.

Reply to  Wayne Job
October 10, 2020 3:27 pm

No, there are not “other explanations” for black holes.

Dark matter conceptions are theories to explain differences between observations and stellar theory.
We have observed evidence for black holes.
Conflating “black holes” and “dark matter” is false science.

You can believe whatever you choose.
Dismissing what is observed and explained by physics surrenders to all belief, sans science.

October 10, 2020 3:17 pm

Hubble pictures are simply amazing!
They are always worth a browse through:
Hubble galaxies:

Images and videos of all kinds of cool NASA stuff:

October 10, 2020 7:31 pm

Accelerating expansion of the universe?
That’s impossible

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