Although things are getting pretty stressful here on Earth, it’s worth remembering that the universe is still an amazing place. A new image of the galaxy NGC 4651 captured by the Hubble Space Telescope is a great way to remind us of that.
NGC 4651 sprawls about 93 million light-years away from our home, in the constellation of Coma Berenices — Latin for “Berenice’s Hair”. This group of stars is visible from both hemispheres and is the only constellation to be named after a historical figure.
The galaxy was first discovered by the German-born British astronomer William Herschel on December 30, 1783. But it hasn’t been seen in such exquisite detail ever before.
Pretty but dangerous
“NGC 4651 may look serene and peaceful as it swirls in the vast, silent emptiness of space, but don’t be fooled — it keeps a violent secret,” the Hubble team said. “It is believed that this galaxy consumed another smaller galaxy to become the large and beautiful spiral that we observe today.”
NGC 4651 is also known as the Umbrella Galaxy for the umbrella-like structure that extends some 100 thousand light-years beyond its disk. This bright structure is composed of tidal star streams — trails of starstuff that the galaxy’s gravitational pull stripped from a smaller satellite galaxy. This smaller galaxy has been completely devoured by NGC 4651 by this point.
The team explains that this galaxy can be seen even with “an amateur telescope,” so if you do happen to have one on hand, that could help make your quarantine just a bit more bearable.