NASA news: This incredible Hubble picture was snapped from 135 million light-years away

The beautiful galaxy is a “moderately luminous” cluster of stars 793,614,430,000,000,000,000 miles from our homeworld. NGC 3749 sits in the constellation Centaurus the Centaur and is visible in the southern skies. Much like the Milky Way, NGC 3749 represents the spiral family of galactic bodies populating space.

The galaxy was photographed by Hubble thanks to a partnership between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).

Using a method known as spectrography, astronomers have been able to decipher what is happening deep inside of the galaxy.

ESA said: “For this image, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope turned its powerful eye toward an emission-line galaxy called NGC 3749.

“When astronomers explore the contents and constituent parts of a galaxy somewhere in the universe, they use various techniques and tools.

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“One of these is to spread out the incoming light from that galaxy into a spectrum and explore its properties.”

By spreading out light into its visible spectrum, astronomers can see the individual wavelengths of light emitted by NGC 3749.

The same effect occurs when light is split by a spectrum or when raindrops refract light into a colourful rainbow.

ESA said: “By hunting for specific signs of emission from various elements within a galaxy’s spectrum of light —so-called emission lines — or, conversely, the signs of absorption from other elements — so-called absorption lines — astronomers can start to deduce what might be happening within.”

If a galaxy’s spectrum of light shows many absorption lines, then it is a sure sign of a galaxy full of old stars.

Hubble has peered back into the very distant past

NASA

But if the galaxy shows stronger signs of emissions lines, it is likely still active and spitting out newly born stars.

ESA said: “This technique, known as spectroscopy, can tell us about a galaxy’s type and composition, the density and temperature of any emitting gas, the star formation rate, or how massive the galaxy’s central black hole might be.

“While not all galaxies display strong emission lines, NGC 3749 does.

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“It lies over 135 million light-years away and is moderately luminous.

“The galaxy has been used as a ‘control’ in studies of especially active and luminous galaxies – those with centres known as active galactic nuclei, which emit copious amounts of intense radiation.

“In comparison to these active cousins, NGC 3749 is classified as inactive, and has no known signs of nuclear activity.”

However, NGC 3749 is not even the farthest object NASA’s and ESA’s telescope has ever seen.

The orbital observatory, launched in April 1990, has been able to spot cosmic bodies from many billions of light-years away.

The Hubble Deep Field, for instance, is a detailed photograph of a region of space in the constellation Ursa Major or The Great Bear.

The picture covered galaxies between 5 billion and 10 billion light-years from Earth.

Just one light-year equals roughly 5,878,625,400,000 miles – the distance light travels over one year.

NASA said: “Hubble has peered back into the very distant past, to locations more than 13.4 billion light-years from Earth.”

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