Hubble views bar in galaxy

The Hubble Space Telescope has captured a strikingly detailed image of the starlit arms, glowing gas, and dark dust clouds of a galaxy known as a barred spiral. Dubbed NGC 1300, the galaxy lies 69 million light-years from Earth.

BAR SCENE Composite view of the spiral galaxy NGC 1300 recorded in visible and infrared light. The galaxy shows a central spiral structure with a bar 3,300 light-years long. NASA, ESA, STScI, P. Knezek

Unlike the arms of ordinary spiral galaxies, those of a barred spiral don’t extend all the way into the galactic center. Instead, they’re connected to the two ends of a bar-shaped stretch of stars.

Models suggest that the gas in a bar of stars can be funneled inward and then spiral into the galaxy’s center, where it may fuel a supermassive black hole. Hubble’s image of NGC 1300 shows no evidence of this, however. Either the galaxy lacks a central black hole or it has one that is quiescent, report Howard Bond of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore and his colleagues.

The team unveiled the image on Jan. 11 at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in San Diego.

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