NASA’s latest Hubble photo shines the spotlight on another distant galaxy, and while it looks fairly unassuming, it’s actually home to a gigantic black hole that’s millions of times larger than our Sun. For a telescope launched back in 1990, it’s remarkable what Hubble is capable of. Despite more than 30 years of orbiting the Earth nearly 15 times per day, Hubble keeps churning out incredible discoveries that further our understanding of the Milky Way and beyond.
Where Hubble really impresses is with its photos of faraway galaxies. As fascinating as our home galaxy is, there are countless others with their own tales and stories to tell. NASA recently shared a picture of galaxy NGC 5921. It’s around 80 million light-years from Earth, has a distinct snake-like body, and (very fittingly) lives in the Serpens constellation. NASA’s also recently shared photos of NGC 4571, NGC 1097, and NGC 4496 — all beautiful, jaw-dropping galaxies that Hubble’s provided a front-row seat to.
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Looking to continue its exploration of the universe, NASA’s now shared a Hubble photo of the galaxy shown above. Referred to as M91, this spiral galaxy is found 55 million light-years from Earth in the Coma Berenices constellation. And it’s an absolute beauty. The spiral galaxy has long, dangling arms stretching out through the depths of space. Along with the gorgeous red and blue colors throughout its arms, the center of M91 looks like a giant lightbulb. Even though it’s currently impossible for humans to visit the M91 galaxy, Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 sensor captures it in impeccable detail.
A Massive Black Hole Is At The Galaxy’s Center
But there’s more to this spiral galaxy than its peaceful aesthetic. Similar to the Milky Way, M91 also has a supermassive black hole at the center of it. Black holes are a common component of nearly every galaxy. It’s not a major discovery to learn that a galaxy has one, but that doesn’t make them any less impressive. For this particular galaxy, the black hole at the center of M91 is estimated to weigh between 9.6 and 38 million times more than our Sun!
In addition to learning more about M91, Hubble observations of the galaxy are also helping scientists better understand other aspects of outer space. According to NASA, the observation that this picture came from, “is part of an effort to build a treasure trove of astronomical data exploring the connections between young stars and the clouds of cold gas in which they form.” Along with the stunning photo, Hubble also studied ultraviolet and other visible details, compared those with radio wavelengths captured by the Atacama Array in Chile, and that data combined gives scientists the information they need.