NICMOS finds a golden ring at the heart of a galaxy (NICMOS image)

The revived Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) aboard the NASA/ESA Hubble telescope has penetrated the dusty disc of the 'edge-on' galaxy NGC 4013 and looked right into the galactic core. To the surprise of astronomers, NICMOS found a brilliant band-like structure, that may be a ring of newly formed stars seen edge-on.

NICMOS enables the Hubble telescope to see near-infrared wavelengths of light, so that it can penetrate the dust that obscures the inner hub of the galaxy. The ring-like structure seen by NICMOS encircles the core and is about 720 light-years wide, which is the typical size of most star-forming rings found in disc galaxies.

The human eye cannot see infrared light so colours have been assigned to correspond to near-infrared wavelengths. The blue light represents shorter near-infrared wavelengths and the red light corresponds to longer wavelengths.

This picture, taken with a filter sensitive to hydrogen, shows the glow of stars and gas. Astronomers used this information to calculate the rate of star formation in the ring-like structure.

NGC 4013, which looks similar to our Milky Way Galaxy, resides in the constellation Ursa Major, 55 million light-years from Earth.

This image, obtained on 12 May 2002, was taken through the Paschen-alpha filter.


NASA, ESA, the NICMOS Group (STScI, ESA) and the NICMOS Science Team (Univ. of Arizona)

About the Image

Release date:5 June 2002, 15:00
Related releases:heic0207
Size:1008 x 1008 px

About the Object

Name:IRAS 11559+4413, NGC 4013
Type:Local Universe : Galaxy : Type : Spiral
Distance:60 million light years
Constellation:Ursa Major

Image Formats

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Position (RA):11 58 31.17
Position (Dec):43° 56' 51.65"
Field of view:0.85 x 0.85 arcminutes
Orientation:North is 5.7° left of vertical

Colours & filters

1.87 μm Hubble Space Telescope

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