Hubble Spies 'UFO' Galaxy

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Good photography is not just about timing. It also depends on good positioning. Case in point? This view of a spiral galaxy, which is fortuitously positioned edge-on relative to the view from the Earth-orbiting Hubble Space Telescope.

The galaxy, officially known as NGC 2683, was nicknamed the "UFO Galaxy" by astronomers at the Astronaut Memorial Planetarium and Observatory in Cocoa, Fla.

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It may resemble a classic alien spaceship, but in a press release NASA says the side-on view gives scientists "a great opportunity to see the delicate dusty lanes of the spiral arms silhouetted against the golden haze of the galaxy’s core."

The picture, released Friday, also shows bright clusters of young blue stars scattered throughout the disc, showing the galaxy's star-forming regions.

Astronomers believe NGC 2683 is a barred spiral galaxy, even though we can't see that directly.

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The image was produced from two adjacent fields observed in visible and infrared light by Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys. A narrow strip that appears slightly blurred and crosses most of the picture horizontally is due to a gap between Hubble’s detectors. This strip was patched using images of the galaxy made by ground-based telescopes, which show significantly less detail.

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA