The actual Universe


Furnace Bar

This is a newly released Hubble Space Telescope image of NGC 986, a barred spiral in the constellation Fornax (The Furnace). Located in southern skies, the bright 11th-magnitude galaxy is just 56 million light-years away. NGC 986 is about two-thirds the size of the Milky, at roughly 65,000 light-years across. Hubble collected optical and infrared data using its Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) to create this image.

The central bar of this galaxy is quite easy to see from this perspective, tracing a characteristic S-shape through the galaxy. The spiral arms of the galaxy stem from the bar, as opposed to originating from the galactic core. NGC 986 is classified as an SBab galaxy – a barred spiral with somewhat tightly wound arms. The center of the galaxy is rich in mature stars while young blue stars are scattered along its arms.

James Barton, a Scottish astronomer who spent much of his time observing the southern skies from Australia, discovered NGC 986 in 1826. He was the assistant astronomer at Parramatta Observatory in New South Wales at the time, before going back to Scotland to work at a private observatory in Roxburgh. He returned to Parramatta as superintendent from 1831 to 1847. Barton’s birthday was just a few weeks ago (31 October), so we’re considering this a belated birthday greeting.


Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

Sources: 1, 2


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