Imagine a galaxy and what comes to mind likely looks like NGC 2336, a shimmering swirl of stars.
And just days before a software glitch temporarily shut down the Hubble Space Telescope, the iconic spacecraft sent home a stunning image of the big, beautiful, and brilliantly blue galaxy. NASA uploaded the image of NGC 2336, a galaxy located about 100 million light-years from Earth in the constellation of Camelopardalis (aka the Giraffe), on Friday, March 5, two days before the telescope unexpectedly shut down. (The telescope has since resumed operations.)
In a statement about the new image, NASA calls NGC 2336 “the quintessential galaxy.” NGC 2336 is a barred spiral galaxy, meaning it has a star-dense center in the shape of a bar, with arms that spiral out from the ends of the bar. The galaxy is also very large, 200,000 light-years across according to the NASA statement.
This is far from the largest galaxy to be discovered, the honor of which goes to IC 1101, which is 50 times the size of our Milky Way at 5.5 million light-years across. Still, it’s on the large end of most spiral galaxies, which can measure between about 16,000 light-years and 300,000 light-years across.
The bright blue stars twinkling throughout NGC 2336’s spiral arms make the galaxy especially beautiful. These are young stars, which give off bright, blue light. At NGC 2336’s center is a darker, redder area comprised mostly of older stars.
German astronomer Wilhelm Tempel discovered this “quintessential galaxy” in 1876 using a much smaller telescope than Hubble, with a mirror about one-tenth the size of Hubble’s.
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