Space

Beyond the Milky Way: The sublime beauty of our galactic neighbors

This image by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope shows a face-on view of the spiral galaxy M51, dubbed the Whirlpool Galaxy
This image by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope shows a face-on view of the spiral galaxy M51, dubbed the Whirlpool Galaxy
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In the late 19th century Isaac Roberts captured this first ever image of the Andromeda galaxy, then only identified as a nebula
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In the late 19th century Isaac Roberts captured this first ever image of the Andromeda galaxy, then only identified as a nebula
Against a stunning backdrop of thousands of galaxies, this odd-looking galaxy with the long streamer of stars appears to be racing through space, like a runaway pinwheel firework. This picture of the galaxy UGC 10214 was taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS)
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Against a stunning backdrop of thousands of galaxies, this odd-looking galaxy with the long streamer of stars appears to be racing through space, like a runaway pinwheel firework. This picture of the galaxy UGC 10214 was taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS)
This image of a pair of interacting galaxies called Arp 273 was released to celebrate the 21st anniversary of the launch of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope
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This image of a pair of interacting galaxies called Arp 273 was released to celebrate the 21st anniversary of the launch of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope
This stunning image of NGC 1275 was taken using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys in July and August 2006
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This stunning image of NGC 1275 was taken using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys in July and August 2006
The Sombrero galaxy, Messier 104 (M104). The galaxy's hallmark is a brilliant white, bulbous core encircled by the thick dust lanes comprising the spiral structure of the galaxy. As seen from Earth, the galaxy is tilted nearly edge-on
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The Sombrero galaxy, Messier 104 (M104). The galaxy's hallmark is a brilliant white, bulbous core encircled by the thick dust lanes comprising the spiral structure of the galaxy. As seen from Earth, the galaxy is tilted nearly edge-on
The graceful, winding arms of the majestic spiral galaxy M51 (NGC 5194) appear like a grand spiral staircase sweeping through space. They are actually long lanes of stars and gas laced with dust. This sharpest-ever image, taken in January 2005 with the Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard the NASA/ESAHubble Space Telescope, illustrates a spiral galaxy's grand design, from its curving spiral arms, where young stars reside, to its yellowish central core, a home of older stars
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The graceful, winding arms of the majestic spiral galaxy M51 (NGC 5194) appear like a grand spiral staircase sweeping through space. They are actually long lanes of stars and gas laced with dust. This sharpest-ever image, taken in January 2005 with the Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard the NASA/ESAHubble Space Telescope, illustrates a spiral galaxy's grand design, from its curving spiral arms, where young stars reside, to its yellowish central core, a home of older stars
Located 300 million light-years away in the constellation Coma Berenices, the colliding galaxies have been nicknamed "The Mice" because of the long tails of stars and gas emanating from each galaxy. Otherwise known as NGC 4676, the pair will eventually merge into a single giant galaxy
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Located 300 million light-years away in the constellation Coma Berenices, the colliding galaxies have been nicknamed "The Mice" because of the long tails of stars and gas emanating from each galaxy. Otherwise known as NGC 4676, the pair will eventually merge into a single giant galaxy
This image combines Hubble observations of M 106 with additional information captured by amateur astronomers Robert Gendler and Jay GaBany. Gendler combined Hubble data with his own observations to produce this stunning colour image
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This image combines Hubble observations of M 106 with additional information captured by amateur astronomers Robert Gendler and Jay GaBany. Gendler combined Hubble data with his own observations to produce this stunning colour image
The driving force behind star formation is particularly unclear for a type of galaxy called a flocculent spiral, such as NGC 2841 shown here, which features short spiral arms rather than prominent and well-defined galactic limbs (Credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration Acknowledgment: M. Crockett and S. Kaviraj (Oxford University, UK), R. O'Connell (University of Virginia), B. Whitmore (STScI) and the WFC3 Scientific Oversight Committee.)
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The driving force behind star formation is particularly unclear for a type of galaxy called a flocculent spiral, such as NGC 2841 shown here, which features short spiral arms rather than prominent and well-defined galactic limbs (Credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration Acknowledgment: M. Crockett and S. Kaviraj (Oxford University, UK), R. O'Connell (University of Virginia), B. Whitmore (STScI) and the WFC3 Scientific Oversight Committee.)
The barred spiral galaxy NGC 6217 was photographed on 13 June and 8 July 2009, as part of the initial testing and calibration of Hubble’s ACS. The galaxy lies up to 90 million light-years away in the north circumpolar constellation Ursa Major
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The barred spiral galaxy NGC 6217 was photographed on 13 June and 8 July 2009, as part of the initial testing and calibration of Hubble’s ACS. The galaxy lies up to 90 million light-years away in the north circumpolar constellation Ursa Major
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope captured this image of NGC 7049 in the constellation of Indus, in the southern sky. A family of globular clusters appears as glittering spots dusted around the galaxy halo
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The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope captured this image of NGC 7049 in the constellation of Indus, in the southern sky. A family of globular clusters appears as glittering spots dusted around the galaxy halo
This is a unique NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope view of the disk galaxy NGC 5866 tilted nearly edge-on to our line-of-sight
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This is a unique NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope view of the disk galaxy NGC 5866 tilted nearly edge-on to our line-of-sight
This mosaic image of the magnificent starburst galaxy, Messier 82 (M82) is the sharpest wide-angle view ever obtained of M82. It is a galaxy remarkable for its webs of shredded clouds and flame-like plumes of glowing hydrogen (Credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA). Acknowledgment: J. Gallagher (University of Wisconsin), M. Mountain (STScI) and P. Puxley (NSF)
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This mosaic image of the magnificent starburst galaxy, Messier 82 (M82) is the sharpest wide-angle view ever obtained of M82. It is a galaxy remarkable for its webs of shredded clouds and flame-like plumes of glowing hydrogen (Credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA). Acknowledgment: J. Gallagher (University of Wisconsin), M. Mountain (STScI) and P. Puxley (NSF)
This Hubble Heritage image of ESO 510-G13 shows a galaxy that, by contrast, has an unusual twisted disk structure, first seen in ground-based photographs
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This Hubble Heritage image of ESO 510-G13 shows a galaxy that, by contrast, has an unusual twisted disk structure, first seen in ground-based photographs
Centaurus A, also known as NGC 5128, is well known for its dramatic dusty lanes of dark material. Hubble’s new observations, using its most advanced instrument, the Wide Field Camera 3, are the most detailed ever made of this galaxy (Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration. Acknowledgment: R. O’Connell (University of Virginia) and the WFC3 Scientific Oversight Committee)
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Centaurus A, also known as NGC 5128, is well known for its dramatic dusty lanes of dark material. Hubble’s new observations, using its most advanced instrument, the Wide Field Camera 3, are the most detailed ever made of this galaxy (Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration. Acknowledgment: R. O’Connell (University of Virginia) and the WFC3 Scientific Oversight Committee)
This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows a spiral galaxy known as NGC 7331. First spotted by the prolific galaxy hunter William Herschel in 1784, NGC 7331 is located about 45 million light-years away in the constellation of Pegasus (The Winged Horse).
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This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows a spiral galaxy known as NGC 7331. First spotted by the prolific galaxy hunter William Herschel in 1784, NGC 7331 is located about 45 million light-years away in the constellation of Pegasus (The Winged Horse).
This image, captured with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, is the largest and sharpest image ever taken of the Andromeda galaxy — otherwise known as M31 (Credit: NASA, ESA, J. Dalcanton (University of Washington, USA), B. F. Williams (University of Washington, USA), L. C. Johnson (University of Washington, USA), the PHAT team, and R. Gendler)
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This image, captured with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, is the largest and sharpest image ever taken of the Andromeda galaxy — otherwise known as M31 (Credit: NASA, ESA, J. Dalcanton (University of Washington, USA), B. F. Williams (University of Washington, USA), L. C. Johnson (University of Washington, USA), the PHAT team, and R. Gendler)
This image, taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows the galaxy NGC 4490. The scattered and warped appearance of the galaxy are the result of a past cosmic collision with another galaxy, NGC 4485 (not visible in this image).
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This image, taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows the galaxy NGC 4490. The scattered and warped appearance of the galaxy are the result of a past cosmic collision with another galaxy, NGC 4485 (not visible in this image).
This  NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows the galaxy IC 335 in front of a backdrop of distant galaxies. IC 335 is part of a galaxy group containing three other galaxies, and located in the Fornax Galaxy Cluster 60 million light-years away
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This  NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows the galaxy IC 335 in front of a backdrop of distant galaxies. IC 335 is part of a galaxy group containing three other galaxies, and located in the Fornax Galaxy Cluster 60 million light-years away
Although this image paints a picture of serenity, the galaxy is anything but. It is one of the brightest lenticular galaxies known, a category that lies somewhere between spirals and ellipticals. It has hosted two known supernova explosions, one in 1969 and another in 1994, and is known to have a colossal supermassive black hole at its centre that has the mass of 450 million Suns
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Although this image paints a picture of serenity, the galaxy is anything but. It is one of the brightest lenticular galaxies known, a category that lies somewhere between spirals and ellipticals. It has hosted two known supernova explosions, one in 1969 and another in 1994, and is known to have a colossal supermassive black hole at its centre that has the mass of 450 million Suns
The unusual spiral galaxy, Messier 66, is located at a distance of about 35 million light-years in the constellation of Leo. Together with Messier 65 and NGC 3628, Messier 66 is the member of the Leo Triplet, a trio of interacting spiral galaxies(Credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration. Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin and Robert Gendler)
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The unusual spiral galaxy, Messier 66, is located at a distance of about 35 million light-years in the constellation of Leo. Together with Messier 65 and NGC 3628, Messier 66 is the member of the Leo Triplet, a trio of interacting spiral galaxies(Credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration. Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin and Robert Gendler)
This striking cosmic whirl is the centre of galaxy NGC 524, as seen with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. This galaxy is located in the constellation of Pisces, some 90 million light-years from Earth
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This striking cosmic whirl is the centre of galaxy NGC 524, as seen with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. This galaxy is located in the constellation of Pisces, some 90 million light-years from Earth
Arp 148 is the staggering aftermath of an encounter between two galaxies, resulting in a ring-shaped galaxy and a long-tailed companion. The collision between the two parent galaxies produced a shockwave effect that first drew matter into the centre and then caused it to propagate outwards in a ring (Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration and A. Evans (University of Virginia, Charlottesville/NRAO/Stony Brook University), K. Noll (STScI), and J. Westphal (Caltech)
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Arp 148 is the staggering aftermath of an encounter between two galaxies, resulting in a ring-shaped galaxy and a long-tailed companion. The collision between the two parent galaxies produced a shockwave effect that first drew matter into the centre and then caused it to propagate outwards in a ring (Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration and A. Evans (University of Virginia, Charlottesville/NRAO/Stony Brook University), K. Noll (STScI), and J. Westphal (Caltech)
NGC 4522 is a spectacular example of a spiral galaxy that is currently being stripped of its gas content. The galaxy is part of the Virgo galaxy cluster and its rapid motion within the cluster results in strong winds across the galaxy as the gas within is left behind. Scientists estimate that the galaxy is moving at more than 10 million kilometres per hour
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NGC 4522 is a spectacular example of a spiral galaxy that is currently being stripped of its gas content. The galaxy is part of the Virgo galaxy cluster and its rapid motion within the cluster results in strong winds across the galaxy as the gas within is left behind. Scientists estimate that the galaxy is moving at more than 10 million kilometres per hour
This view, captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows a nearby spiral galaxy known as NGC 1433. At about 32 million light-years from Earth, it is a type of very active galaxy known as a Seyfert galaxy — a classification that accounts for 10% of all galaxies. They have very bright, luminous centres comparable to that of our galaxy, the Milky Way
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This view, captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows a nearby spiral galaxy known as NGC 1433. At about 32 million light-years from Earth, it is a type of very active galaxy known as a Seyfert galaxy — a classification that accounts for 10% of all galaxies. They have very bright, luminous centres comparable to that of our galaxy, the Milky Way
The sparkling blue ring is 150,000 light-years in diameter, making it larger than our entire home galaxy, the Milky Way. The galaxy, cataloged as AM 0644-741, is a member of the class of so- called "ring galaxies." It lies 300 million light-years away in the direction of the southern constellation Dorado
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The sparkling blue ring is 150,000 light-years in diameter, making it larger than our entire home galaxy, the Milky Way. The galaxy, cataloged as AM 0644-741, is a member of the class of so- called "ring galaxies." It lies 300 million light-years away in the direction of the southern constellation Dorado
This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows a cosmic oddity, dwarf galaxy DDO 68. This ragged collection of stars and gas clouds looks at first glance like a recently-formed galaxy in our own cosmic neighborhood. But, is it really as young as it looks?
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This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows a cosmic oddity, dwarf galaxy DDO 68. This ragged collection of stars and gas clouds looks at first glance like a recently-formed galaxy in our own cosmic neighborhood. But, is it really as young as it looks?
NGC 6240 lies 400 million light-years away in the constellation of Ophiuchus (The Serpent Holder). This galaxy has an elongated shape with branching wisps, loops and tails. This mess of gas, dust and stars bears more than a passing resemblance to a butterfly
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NGC 6240 lies 400 million light-years away in the constellation of Ophiuchus (The Serpent Holder). This galaxy has an elongated shape with branching wisps, loops and tails. This mess of gas, dust and stars bears more than a passing resemblance to a butterfly
NGC 986 is found in the constellation of Fornax (The Furnace), located in the southern sky. NGC 986 is a bright, 11th-magnitude galaxy sitting around 56 million light-years away, and its golden centre and barred swirling arms are clearly visible in this image
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NGC 986 is found in the constellation of Fornax (The Furnace), located in the southern sky. NGC 986 is a bright, 11th-magnitude galaxy sitting around 56 million light-years away, and its golden centre and barred swirling arms are clearly visible in this image
The galaxy is a member of a class of galaxies called “tadpoles” because of their bright heads and elongated tails. This galaxy resides relatively nearby, at a distance of 80 million light-years. Tadpoles are rare in the local Universe but common in the distant Universe, suggesting that many galaxies pass through a phase like this as they evolve (Credit: NASA, ESA, and D. Elmegreen (Vassar College), B. Elmegreen (IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center), J. Almeida, C. Munoz-Tunon, and M. Filho (Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias), J. Mendez-Abreu (University of St. Andrews), J. Gallagher (University of Wisconsin-Madison), M. Rafelski (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), and D. Ceverino (Center for Astronomy at Heidelberg University))
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The galaxy is a member of a class of galaxies called “tadpoles” because of their bright heads and elongated tails. This galaxy resides relatively nearby, at a distance of 80 million light-years. Tadpoles are rare in the local Universe but common in the distant Universe, suggesting that many galaxies pass through a phase like this as they evolve (Credit: NASA, ESA, and D. Elmegreen (Vassar College), B. Elmegreen (IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center), J. Almeida, C. Munoz-Tunon, and M. Filho (Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias), J. Mendez-Abreu (University of St. Andrews), J. Gallagher (University of Wisconsin-Madison), M. Rafelski (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center), and D. Ceverino (Center for Astronomy at Heidelberg University))
Like dust bunnies that lurk in corners and under beds, surprisingly complex loops and blobs of cosmic dust lie hidden in the giant elliptical galaxy NGC 1316. This image made from data obtained with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope reveals the dust lanes and star clusters of this giant galaxy that give evidence that it was formed from a past merger of two gas-rich galaxies
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Like dust bunnies that lurk in corners and under beds, surprisingly complex loops and blobs of cosmic dust lie hidden in the giant elliptical galaxy NGC 1316. This image made from data obtained with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope reveals the dust lanes and star clusters of this giant galaxy that give evidence that it was formed from a past merger of two gas-rich galaxies
A pair of overlapping galaxies called NGC 3314. While the two galaxies look as if they are in the midst of a collision, this is in fact a trick of perspective: the two are in chance alignment from our vantage point
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A pair of overlapping galaxies called NGC 3314. While the two galaxies look as if they are in the midst of a collision, this is in fact a trick of perspective: the two are in chance alignment from our vantage point
This image shows the most detailed view ever of the core of Messier 82 (M 82), also known as the Cigar Galaxy. Rich with dust, young stars and glowing gas, M 82 is both unusually bright and relatively close to Earth. The starburst galaxy is located around 12 million light-years away in the constellation of Ursa Major (The Great Bear)
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This image shows the most detailed view ever of the core of Messier 82 (M 82), also known as the Cigar Galaxy. Rich with dust, young stars and glowing gas, M 82 is both unusually bright and relatively close to Earth. The starburst galaxy is located around 12 million light-years away in the constellation of Ursa Major (The Great Bear)
An edge-on profile of the slender spiral galaxy NGC 5775. Although the spiral is tilted away from us, with only a thin slither on view, such a perspective can be advantageous for astronomers because the regions above and below the galaxy’s disc can be seen much more clearly
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An edge-on profile of the slender spiral galaxy NGC 5775. Although the spiral is tilted away from us, with only a thin slither on view, such a perspective can be advantageous for astronomers because the regions above and below the galaxy’s disc can be seen much more clearly
This Hubble image of the Antennae galaxies is the sharpest yet of this merging pair of galaxies. As the two galaxies smash together, billions of stars are born, mostly in groups and clusters of stars. The brightest and most compact of these are called super star clusters (Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration. Acknowledgement: B. Whitmore ( Space Telescope Science Institute) and James Long (ESA/Hubble)
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This Hubble image of the Antennae galaxies is the sharpest yet of this merging pair of galaxies. As the two galaxies smash together, billions of stars are born, mostly in groups and clusters of stars. The brightest and most compact of these are called super star clusters (Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration. Acknowledgement: B. Whitmore ( Space Telescope Science Institute) and James Long (ESA/Hubble)
his NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image reveals the iridescent interior of one of the most active galaxies in our local neighbourhood — NGC 1569, a small galaxy located about eleven million light-years away in the constellation of Camelopardalis (The Giraffe)
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his NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image reveals the iridescent interior of one of the most active galaxies in our local neighbourhood — NGC 1569, a small galaxy located about eleven million light-years away in the constellation of Camelopardalis (The Giraffe)
Only three local stars appear in this image, quartered by right-angled diffraction spikes. Everything besides them is a galaxy; floating like a swarm of microbes in a drop of water, and brought into view here not by a microscope, but by the Advanced Camera for Surveys on the Hubble Space Telescope
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Only three local stars appear in this image, quartered by right-angled diffraction spikes. Everything besides them is a galaxy; floating like a swarm of microbes in a drop of water, and brought into view here not by a microscope, but by the Advanced Camera for Surveys on the Hubble Space Telescope
IC 391 lies about 80 million light-years away in the constellation of Camelopardalis (the Giraffe) in the far northern part of the sky. The British amateur observer William Denning discovered it in the late nineteenth century, and described it as faint, small and round
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IC 391 lies about 80 million light-years away in the constellation of Camelopardalis (the Giraffe) in the far northern part of the sky. The British amateur observer William Denning discovered it in the late nineteenth century, and described it as faint, small and round
The Andromeda galaxy from ESA’s Herschel space observatory, cool lanes of forming stars are revealed in the finest detail yet
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The Andromeda galaxy from ESA’s Herschel space observatory, cool lanes of forming stars are revealed in the finest detail yet
Hubble Space Telescope image of supernova 1994D in galaxy NGC 4526.
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Hubble Space Telescope image of supernova 1994D in galaxy NGC 4526.
This is the galaxy known as NGC 5548. At its heart, though not visible here, is a supermassive black hole behaving in a strange and unexpected manner
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This is the galaxy known as NGC 5548. At its heart, though not visible here, is a supermassive black hole behaving in a strange and unexpected manner
Visible as a small, sparkling hook in the dark sky, this beautiful object is known as J082354.96+280621.6, or J082354.96 for short. It is a starburst galaxy, so named because of the incredibly (and unusually) high rate of star formation occurring within it
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Visible as a small, sparkling hook in the dark sky, this beautiful object is known as J082354.96+280621.6, or J082354.96 for short. It is a starburst galaxy, so named because of the incredibly (and unusually) high rate of star formation occurring within it
NGC 4696, the largest galaxy in the Centaurus Cluster
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NGC 4696, the largest galaxy in the Centaurus Cluster
Nicknamed the Southern Pinwheel, M83 is undergoing more rapid star formation than our own Milky Way galaxy, especially in its nucleus. The sharp "eye" of the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) has captured hundreds of young star clusters, ancient swarms of globular star clusters, and hundreds of thousands of individual stars, mostly blue supergiants and red supergiant
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Nicknamed the Southern Pinwheel, M83 is undergoing more rapid star formation than our own Milky Way galaxy, especially in its nucleus. The sharp "eye" of the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) has captured hundreds of young star clusters, ancient swarms of globular star clusters, and hundreds of thousands of individual stars, mostly blue supergiants and red supergiant
NGC 5256 is a pair of galaxies in its final stage of merging. The new data make the gas and dust being whirled around inside and outside the galaxy more visible than ever before
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NGC 5256 is a pair of galaxies in its final stage of merging. The new data make the gas and dust being whirled around inside and outside the galaxy more visible than ever before
This image from Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) shows NGC 1448, a spiral galaxy located about 50 million light-years from Earth in the little-known constellation of Horologium (The Pendulum Clock).
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This image from Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) shows NGC 1448, a spiral galaxy located about 50 million light-years from Earth in the little-known constellation of Horologium (The Pendulum Clock).
This galaxy is a megamaser. Megamasers are intensely bright, around 100 million times brighter than the masers found in galaxies like the Milky Way. The entire galaxy essentially acts as an astronomical laser that beams out microwave emission rather than visible light (hence the ‘m’ replacing the ‘l’). This megamaser is named IRAS 16399-0937, and is located over 370 million light-years from Earth
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This galaxy is a megamaser. Megamasers are intensely bright, around 100 million times brighter than the masers found in galaxies like the Milky Way. The entire galaxy essentially acts as an astronomical laser that beams out microwave emission rather than visible light (hence the ‘m’ replacing the ‘l’). This megamaser is named IRAS 16399-0937, and is located over 370 million light-years from Earth
This image provides the clearest ever view of galaxy NGC 949, which lies over 30 million light-years away in the constellation of Triangulum. The galaxy has an unusual shape, made more obscure due to its inclination. From our point of view, it is difficult to discern exactly what type of galaxy NGC 949 is, but it is certainly a disc galaxy of some kind, most likely a spiral
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This image provides the clearest ever view of galaxy NGC 949, which lies over 30 million light-years away in the constellation of Triangulum. The galaxy has an unusual shape, made more obscure due to its inclination. From our point of view, it is difficult to discern exactly what type of galaxy NGC 949 is, but it is certainly a disc galaxy of some kind, most likely a spiral
This is NGC 7814, also known as the “Little Sombrero”. Its larger namesake the Sombrero Galaxy is another stunning example of an edge-on galaxy — in fact, the “Little Sombrero” is about the same size as its bright namesake at about 60 000 light-years across, but as it lies further away, it appears smaller in the sky
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This is NGC 7814, also known as the “Little Sombrero”. Its larger namesake the Sombrero Galaxy is another stunning example of an edge-on galaxy — in fact, the “Little Sombrero” is about the same size as its bright namesake at about 60 000 light-years across, but as it lies further away, it appears smaller in the sky
The constellation of Virgo (The Virgin) is the largest of the Zodiac constellations, and the second largest overall after Hydra (The Water Snake). Its most appealing feature, however, is the sheer number of galaxies that lie within it. In this picture, among a crowd of face- and edge-on spiral, elliptical, and irregular galaxies, lies NGC 4866, a lenticular galaxy situated about 80 million light-years from Earth
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The constellation of Virgo (The Virgin) is the largest of the Zodiac constellations, and the second largest overall after Hydra (The Water Snake). Its most appealing feature, however, is the sheer number of galaxies that lie within it. In this picture, among a crowd of face- and edge-on spiral, elliptical, and irregular galaxies, lies NGC 4866, a lenticular galaxy situated about 80 million light-years from Earth
The galaxy, called NGC 5010, is in a period of transition. The aging galaxy is moving on from life as a spiral galaxy, like our Milky Way, to an older, less defined type called an elliptical galaxy
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The galaxy, called NGC 5010, is in a period of transition. The aging galaxy is moving on from life as a spiral galaxy, like our Milky Way, to an older, less defined type called an elliptical galaxy
NGC 1483 is a barred spiral galaxy located in the southern constellation of Dorado — the dolphinfish in Spanish. The nebulous galaxy features a bright central bulge and diffuse arms with distinct star-forming regions. In the background, many other distant galaxies can be seen
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NGC 1483 is a barred spiral galaxy located in the southern constellation of Dorado — the dolphinfish in Spanish. The nebulous galaxy features a bright central bulge and diffuse arms with distinct star-forming regions. In the background, many other distant galaxies can be seen
This image by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope shows a face-on view of the spiral galaxy M51, dubbed the Whirlpool Galaxy
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This image by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope shows a face-on view of the spiral galaxy M51, dubbed the Whirlpool Galaxy
This image from the Digitized Sky Survey shows the area around the Andromeda galaxy — otherwise known as M31
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This image from the Digitized Sky Survey shows the area around the Andromeda galaxy — otherwise known as M31
This view of Messier 83 shows new Hubble data combined with ground-based data from the Giant Magellan Telescope, which shows a wider field of view so the whole galaxy is visible.
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This view of Messier 83 shows new Hubble data combined with ground-based data from the Giant Magellan Telescope, which shows a wider field of view so the whole galaxy is visible.
The galaxy, called NGC 1569, sparkles with the light from millions of newly formed young stars. NGC 1569 is pumping out stars at a rate that is 100 times faster than the rate observed in our Milky Way Galaxy (Credit: Credit for Advanced Camera Data: NASA, ESA, A. Aloisi (STScI/ESA), J. Mack and A. Grocholski (STScI), M. Sirianni (STScI/ESA), R. van der Marel (STScI), L. Angeretti, D. Romano, and M. Tosi (INAF-OAB), and F. Annibali, L. Greggio, and E. Held (INAF-OAP) Credit for Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 Data: NASA, ESA, P. Shopbell (California Institute of Technology), R. Dufour (Rice University), D. Walter (South Carolina State University, Orangeburg), and A. Wilson (University of Maryland, College Park))
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The galaxy, called NGC 1569, sparkles with the light from millions of newly formed young stars. NGC 1569 is pumping out stars at a rate that is 100 times faster than the rate observed in our Milky Way Galaxy (Credit: Credit for Advanced Camera Data: NASA, ESA, A. Aloisi (STScI/ESA), J. Mack and A. Grocholski (STScI), M. Sirianni (STScI/ESA), R. van der Marel (STScI), L. Angeretti, D. Romano, and M. Tosi (INAF-OAB), and F. Annibali, L. Greggio, and E. Held (INAF-OAP) Credit for Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 Data: NASA, ESA, P. Shopbell (California Institute of Technology), R. Dufour (Rice University), D. Walter (South Carolina State University, Orangeburg), and A. Wilson (University of Maryland, College Park))
This  pair of interacting galaxies consists of NGC 5754, the large spiral on the top and NGC 5752, the smaller companion in the bottom left corner of the image
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This  pair of interacting galaxies consists of NGC 5754, the large spiral on the top and NGC 5752, the smaller companion in the bottom left corner of the image
Zw II 96 is located in the constellation of Delphinus, the Dolphin, about 500 million light-years away from Earth
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Zw II 96 is located in the constellation of Delphinus, the Dolphin, about 500 million light-years away from Earth
MCG+12-02-001 consists of a pair of galaxies visibly affected by gravitational interaction as material is flung out in opposite directions
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MCG+12-02-001 consists of a pair of galaxies visibly affected by gravitational interaction as material is flung out in opposite directions
Messier 104 is commonly known as the Sombrero galaxy because in visible light, it resembles the broad-brimmed Mexican hat. However, in Spitzer's striking infrared view, the galaxy looks more like a "bull's eye."
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Messier 104 is commonly known as the Sombrero galaxy because in visible light, it resembles the broad-brimmed Mexican hat. However, in Spitzer's striking infrared view, the galaxy looks more like a "bull's eye."
From NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, taken in infrared light, shows where the action is taking place in galaxy NGC 1291. The outer ring, colored red in this view, is filled with new stars that are igniting and heating up dust that glows with infrared light
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From NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, taken in infrared light, shows where the action is taking place in galaxy NGC 1291. The outer ring, colored red in this view, is filled with new stars that are igniting and heating up dust that glows with infrared light
The supernova SN 2014J is seen in this image near its peak brightness in the first week of February 2014. It appears as a faint star to the lower right of the central region of its host galaxy M82
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The supernova SN 2014J is seen in this image near its peak brightness in the first week of February 2014. It appears as a faint star to the lower right of the central region of its host galaxy M82
The galaxy IC 342 presents its delicate pattern of dust in this image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Seen in infrared light, the faint starlight gives way to the glowing bright patterns of dust found throughout the galaxy's disk
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The galaxy IC 342 presents its delicate pattern of dust in this image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Seen in infrared light, the faint starlight gives way to the glowing bright patterns of dust found throughout the galaxy's disk
A nearly perfect ring of hot, blue stars pinwheels about the yellow nucleus of an unusual galaxy known as Hoag's Object
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A nearly perfect ring of hot, blue stars pinwheels about the yellow nucleus of an unusual galaxy known as Hoag's Object
This spiral galaxy, when seen in visible light, exhibits tightly wound spiral arms that give it a pinwheel shape similar to that of many other spirals. However, when the galaxy is viewed in ultraviolet light with NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, its shape is startlingly different
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This spiral galaxy, when seen in visible light, exhibits tightly wound spiral arms that give it a pinwheel shape similar to that of many other spirals. However, when the galaxy is viewed in ultraviolet light with NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, its shape is startlingly different
A close-up high resolution Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 image of the dramatic dust disk which is thought to be the remnant of a smaller spiral galaxy that merged with the large elliptical galaxy
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A close-up high resolution Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 image of the dramatic dust disk which is thought to be the remnant of a smaller spiral galaxy that merged with the large elliptical galaxy
This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image of the core of the nearest starburst spiral galaxy, NGC 253, reveals violent star formation within a region 1, 000 light-years across. A starburst galaxy has an exceptionally high rate of star birth, first identified by its excess of infrared radiation from warm dust
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This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image of the core of the nearest starburst spiral galaxy, NGC 253, reveals violent star formation within a region 1, 000 light-years across. A starburst galaxy has an exceptionally high rate of star birth, first identified by its excess of infrared radiation from warm dust
A galaxy being stretched out of shape has been imaged by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Known as NGC 2146, it has been severely warped and deformed so that an immense dusty arm of glittering material now lies directly in front of the centre of the galaxy, as seen in the image
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A galaxy being stretched out of shape has been imaged by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Known as NGC 2146, it has been severely warped and deformed so that an immense dusty arm of glittering material now lies directly in front of the centre of the galaxy, as seen in the image
The Whirlpool galaxy, M51, has been one of the most photogenic galaxies in amateur and professional astronomy. Easily photographed and viewed by smaller telescopes, this celestial beauty is studied extensively in a range of wavelengths by large ground- and space-based observatories
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The Whirlpool galaxy, M51, has been one of the most photogenic galaxies in amateur and professional astronomy. Easily photographed and viewed by smaller telescopes, this celestial beauty is studied extensively in a range of wavelengths by large ground- and space-based observatories
The beautiful spiral galaxy NGC 406 was discovered in 1834 by John Herschel and is here imaged in great detail by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope
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The beautiful spiral galaxy NGC 406 was discovered in 1834 by John Herschel and is here imaged in great detail by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope
This image of the spiral galaxy Messier 101 is a composite of views from the Spitzer Space Telescope, Hubble Space Telescope, and Chandra X-ray Observatory. Each wavelength region shows different aspects of celestial objects and often reveals new objects that could not otherwise be studied
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This image of the spiral galaxy Messier 101 is a composite of views from the Spitzer Space Telescope, Hubble Space Telescope, and Chandra X-ray Observatory. Each wavelength region shows different aspects of celestial objects and often reveals new objects that could not otherwise be studied

With the upcoming 2020 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope promising to capture pictures of universe with a degree of detail never before seen, we take a look back at some of the most breathtaking intergalactic images humanity has snapped, from early 18th century mysteries to more recent mind-blowing shots from the revolutionary Hubble Space Telescope.

In 1888 an amateur astronomer in England named Isaac Roberts captured a groundbreaking image. This long-exposure photograph taken at Roberts' home observatory was one of the first images even taken of the galaxy Andromeda. At the time Roberts identified it as the Andromeda Nebula, as it wasn't until the next century that we truly understood we were seeing a completely different galaxy, outside of our own Milky Way.

In the late 19th century Isaac Roberts captured this first ever image of the Andromeda galaxy, then only identified as a nebula
In the late 19th century Isaac Roberts captured this first ever image of the Andromeda galaxy, then only identified as a nebula

Over the 20th century our knowledge of the universe expanded, as did our technological ability to capture images its outer reaches. The Hubble Space Telescope allowed us to pull back the curtains on the deep limits of the universe and the new millennium promises an even higher definition imaging with the James Webb Space Telescope.

This image combines Hubble observations of M 106 with additional information captured by amateur astronomers Robert Gendler and Jay GaBany. Gendler combined Hubble data with his own observations to produce this stunning colour image
This image combines Hubble observations of M 106 with additional information captured by amateur astronomers Robert Gendler and Jay GaBany. Gendler combined Hubble data with his own observations to produce this stunning colour image

Despite ongoing delays, the JWT promises to take us even closer to the edge of time and space, delivering a new perspective on some of the oldest galaxies in the universe, potentially just a few hundred million years after the big bang.

This is a unique NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope view of the disk galaxy NGC 5866 tilted nearly edge-on to our line-of-sight
This is a unique NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope view of the disk galaxy NGC 5866 tilted nearly edge-on to our line-of-sight

Take a trip through some of humanity's most spectacular galactic glimpses in our special gallery featuring the best deep space images ever captured.

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