NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has captured an image of an unusual edge-on galaxy,
revealing remarkable details of its warped dusty disk and showing how colliding galaxies
spawn the formation of new generations of stars.
The dust and spiral arms of normal spiral galaxies, like our own Milky Way, appear
flat when viewed edge-on. This month's Hubble Heritage image of ESO 510-G13 shows a galaxy
that, by contrast, has an unusual twisted disk structure, first seen in ground-based
photographs obtained at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile. ESO 510-G13 lies
in the southern constellation Hydra, roughly 150 million light-years from Earth.
Details of the structure of ESO 510-G13 are visible because the interstellar dust
clouds that trace its disk are silhouetted from behind by light from the galaxy's bright,
smooth central bulge.
The strong warping of the disk indicates that ESO 510-G13 has recently undergone a
collision with a nearby galaxy and is in the process of swallowing it. Gravitational
forces distort the structures of the galaxies as their stars, gas, and dust merge together
in a process that takes millions of years. Eventually the disturbances will die out, and
ESO 510-G13 will become a normal-appearing single galaxy.
In the outer regions of ESO 510-G13, especially on the right-hand side of the
image, we see that the twisted disk contains not only dark dust, but also bright clouds of
blue stars. This shows that hot, young stars are being formed in the disk. Astronomers
believe that the formation of new stars may be triggered by collisions between galaxies,
as their interstellar clouds smash together and are compressed.
The Heritage Team used Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) to observe
ESO 510-G13 in April 2001. Pictures obtained through blue, green, and red filters were
combined to make this color-composite image, which emphasizes the contrast between the
dusty spiral arms, the bright bulge, and the blue star-forming regions. During the
observations of ESO 510-G13, WFPC2 passed the milestone of taking its 100,000th image
since its installation in the telescope by shuttle astronauts in 1993.
Image Credit: NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Acknowledgment: C. Conselice (U. Wisconsin/STScI)
About this Object Name: ESO 510-G13
Object Description: Edge-on Spiral Galaxy
Position (J2000): R.A. 13h 55m 04.8s
Dec. -26° 46' 48.0''
Distance: 46 Mpc (150 million light-years)
Dimensions: This image is 2.4 arcminutes wide, or roughly 32 kpc (105,000 light-years) at
the distance of ESO 510-G13.
About the Data Instrument: WFPC2
Filters: F450W (B); F555W (V); F675W (R)
Exposure Dates: April 6-7, 2001
Total Exposure Time: 3.3 hours
Principal Astronomers: K. Noll, H. Bond, C. Christian, S. Crawshaw, L. Frattare, F.
Hamilton, J. Lee, Z. Levay, T. Royle (Hubble Heritage Team/STScI) and C. Conselice (U.
About this Image Image Credit: NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
Release Date: August 2, 2001 9:00 a.m. (EDT)