The distant galaxy NGC 157 boasts a central sweep of stars resembling a giant “S”, reminiscent of Superman’s symbol. This celestial spiral is a super example of how new technology is helping us to learn more about the cosmos.
By John Roach
It may not be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but from the looks of it, galaxy NGC 157 appears to have the stamp that belongs to the one and only Superman – a giant sweep of stars that resemble the letter “S”.
Whether the galaxy itself harbors the superhero remains unknown, but the image was made with some mighty powerful technology: the High Acuity Wide-field K-band Imager (HAWK-I) on the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile, which sees in infrared light.
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Using the imager, astronomers are able to peer through the gas and dust that normally obscures the view of the distant galaxy. This technology enhances the ability to study dense areas of star formation, which is a step towards understanding our own origins.
“The same processes that are coalescing material in NGC 157 and creating stars there took place 4.5 billion years ago in the Milky Way to form our own star, the sun,” the ESO notes in an image advisory.
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Tip o’ the Log to Nancy Atkinson and Universe Today.
John Roach is a contributing writer for msnbc.com. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by hitting the “like” button on the Cosmic Log Facebook page or following msnbc.com’s science editor, Alan Boyle, on Twitter (@b0yle).