The Hubble Space Telescope just can’t stop taking awesome images. The latest is Galaxy IC 335, and it isn’t alone. In the image above (full-size below), IC 335 is the focal point as other distant galaxies appear in the back drop.
The latest image from the Hubble Space Telescope doesn’t tell us much about IC 335. It’s not the telescope’s fault either. More like our position. We are stuck looking at IC 335 edge-on. This makes it a chore for astronomers to try to classify the galaxy. None of a galaxy’s defining characteristics can be seen when looking at them edge on.
Take the Andromeda galaxy for example. We know it’s a spiral galaxy because we have a good look at its face, and its defining characteristics.
Here’s what we do know about IC 335. It’s 45,000 light years long and located 60 million light years away in the Fornax Galaxy Cluster.
These lenticular galaxies are an intermediate state in galaxy morphological classification schemes between true spiral and elliptical galaxies. They have a thin stellar disk and a bulge, like spiral galaxies, but in contrast to typical spiral galaxies they have used up most of the interstellar medium. Only a few new stars can be created out of the material that is left and the star formation rate is very low. Hence, the population of stars in S0 galaxies consists mainly of aging stars, very similar to the star population in elliptical galaxies.
As S0 galaxies have only ill-defined spiral arms they are easily mistaken for elliptical galaxies if they are seen inclined face-on or edge-on as IC 335 here. And indeed, despite the morphological differences between S0 and elliptical class galaxies, they share some common characteristics, like typical sizes and spectral features.
NASA does say the “exact nature of these galaxies is still a matter of debate.”
It’s still a fantastic image.
Image credit: NASA