The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has revealed fine details of the grand design spiral galaxy Messier 99.
Messier 99 resides approximately 42 million light-years away in the constellation of Coma Berenices.
Also known as M99, NGC 4254, IRAS 12162+1441 and LEDA 39578, the galaxy has a diameter of around 80,000 light-years.
It contains about 100,000 million solar masses and belongs to the Virgo Cluster, a concentration of several hundred galaxies.
Messier 99 has an unusual, asymmetric shape with a displaced core and unequal spiral arms. It is a rare example of a galaxy with one dominant spiral arm.
The galaxy was discovered, together with the neighboring Messier 98 and Messier 100, by the French astronomer Pierre Méchain on March 15, 1781.
Charles Messier observed Messier 99 a month later and saw a ‘nebula without star, of a very rare light, but a little clearer than the previous. The nebula is between two stars of the 7th & 8th magnitude.’
“Messier 99 was captured by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) on two separate occasions, helping astronomers study two entirely different astronomical phenomena,” members of the Hubble team said.
“The first set of observations aimed to explore a gap between two different varieties of cosmic explosions: novae and supernovae.”
“Novae, which are caused by the interactions between white dwarfs and larger stars in binary systems, are far less bright than the supernovae which mark the catastrophically violent deaths of massive stars.”
“However, current astronomical theories predict that sudden, fleeting events could occur that shine with brightnesses between those of novae and supernovae.”
“Despite being described by astronomers as being shrouded in mystery and controversy, just such an event was observed in Messier 99.”
The researchers turned to Hubble’s keen vision to take a closer look and precisely locate the fading source.
“The second set of observations were part of a large Hubble project which aims to chart the connections between young stars and the clouds of cold gas from which they form,” they added.
“Hubble inspected 38 nearby galaxies, identifying clusters of hot, young stars.”
“These galaxies were also observed by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), a colossal radio telescope consisting of 66 individual dishes perched high in the Chilean Andes.”
“The combination of Hubble’s observations of young stars and ALMA’s insight into clouds of cold gas will allow astronomers to delve into the details of star formation, and paves the way for future science with the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope.”
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