Hubble captures the star-filled Cetus constellation galaxy NGC 1087


Hubble captures the star-filled Cetus constellation galaxy NGC 1087

Young and old stars alike twinkle in the dusty spiral arms of NGC 1087. Located 80 million light-years away in the constellation Cetus, NGC 1087 is a barred spiral galaxy.

It has a diameter of 87,000 light years and a very small nucleus or center. The galaxy’s dusty lanes, visible in dark red, help define its spiral structure. NGC 1087’s stellar bar – the elongated, bright-white structure at the galaxy’s center – is also small compared to other barred galaxies. Typically, in barred galaxies, the center’s gravity pulls in large amounts of gas, leading to star formation followed by slow decay. Uniquely, NGC 1087 shows signs of new star formation, making it a subject of particular interest to scientists.

British astronomer William Herschel discovered NGC 1087 in 1785. The galaxy lies just south of the celestial equator, making it visible from both hemispheres. In 1995, astronomers discovered a Type II supernova within this galaxy. A Type II supernova occurs when a massive star uses all of its nuclear fuel and its iron core collapses, then explodes. Named 1995V, it is the only supernova observed so far in this galaxy.

In this new ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared light image from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, the dark red streaks are cool molecular gas, the raw material from which stars form. The bright pink signal spots in regions where new stars are forming are characterized by the presence of ionized hydrogen, oxygen, and sulfur. The blue areas contain hot, young stars formed earlier in the galaxy’s lifetime. Hubble observed NGC 1087 to study the relationship between young stars and cold gas, and specifically to determine what happens to gaseous regions after they form within stars.

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