Anyone who’s read or seen The Hobbit knows that dwarves love sparkling treasures — and this image from Hubble shows that dwarf galaxies are no different.
Seen here in green and infrared wavelengths, NGC 5477 is a beautiful, glittering cluster of stars. It’s a dwarf irregular galaxy located 20 million light-years away within the Messier 101 group, a loose gathering of galaxies in the constellation Ursa Major (part of which includes the asterism of the Big Dipper, or Plough.) The group is dominated by Messier 101 — the Pinwheel Galaxy, an enormous spiral galaxy 70 percent bigger than the Milky Way.
The bright blue and white blotches scattered throughout NGC 5477 are nebulae, clouds of hydrogen gas that are condensing to create new stars. In optical wavelengths they would appear dusky pink.
Around — as well as through — NGC 5477 other much more distant galaxies can be seen from many different angles.
Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA