Hubble observes a calm galaxy with a turbulent past

(ORDO NEWS) — The lazy spiral arms of the picturesque galaxy NGC 976 fill the frame in this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image.

This spiral galaxy lies about 150 million light years away from the Milky Way towards the constellation Aries. Despite its “calm” appearance, the galaxy NGC 976 was one of the most powerful outbreaks in space – supernova explosions.

These cataclysmic events occur at the end of the life cycle of massive stars, and their luminosity is comparable to the luminosity of the entire host galaxy for a short period of time.

Despite the fact that supernovae mark the death of massive stars, they are also responsible for the formation of heavy elements in the Periodic Table, which are then scattered into space.

Supernovae also help astronomers measure distances to distant galaxies. The amount of energy released into space by some types of supernovae is almost the same for different types of explosions of this type, and this allows astronomers to estimate the distance from the brightness of a supernova measured from observations from Earth.

This image – which was taken with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 – is part of a large collection of images taken by Hubble of observations of nearby galaxies containing supernovae, as well as a special class of pulsating stars called Cepheids.

Both Cepheids and supernovae are used to measure astronomical distances, so galaxies containing objects of both these types are important natural laboratories for mutually calibrating the two methods.


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