Photo credit: NASA, ESA, P. Sell (University of Florida), and P. Kaaret (University of Iowa)
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered a hidden galaxy (spiral galaxy IC 342), also known as Caldwell 5, located approximately 11 million light-years from Earth. What stands out most are the intertwined tendrils of dust in its brilliant arms that wrap around a spectacular core of hot gas and stars, which is a specific type of region called an H II nucleus.
The H II nucleus is essentially an area of atomic hydrogen that has become ionized, and such regions are energetic birthplaces of stars where thousands of stars can form over a couple million years. Each one of these young, extremely hot, blue stars emit ultraviolet light that further ionize the surrounding hydrogen. Even though it may have a bright 8.4 magnitude, Caldwell 5 doesn’t really stand out in the sky, as it appears near the equator of the Milky Way’s disk amongst thick cosmic gas, dark dust, and glowing stars. Now NGC 1385 is a spiral galaxy that really stands out, since it appears to be in a furnace.
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Were it not obscured by so much interstellar matter, the Hidden Galaxy would be one of the brightest galaxies in our sky. A relatively close galaxy, it is roughly 50,000 light-years across and billions of years old,” according to NASA.