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This new image from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and its Wide Field
Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) shows the unique galaxy pair called NGC
3314. Through an extraordinary chance alignment, a face-on spiral
galaxy lies precisely in front of another larger spiral. This line-up
provides us with the rare chance to visualize dark material within the
front galaxy, seen only because it is silhouetted against the object
Dust lying in the spiral arms of the foreground galaxy stands out
where it absorbs light from the more distant galaxy. This silhouetting
shows us where the interstellar dust clouds are located, and how much
light they absorb. The outer spiral arms of the front galaxy appear to
change from bright to dark, as they are projected first against deep
space, and then against the bright background of the other galaxy.
NGC 3314 lies about 140 million light-years from Earth, in the
direction of the southern hemisphere constellation Hydra. The bright
blue stars forming a pinwheel shape near the center of the front
galaxy have formed recently from interstellar gas and dust.
In many galaxies, interstellar dust lies only in the same regions as
recently formed blue stars. However, in the foreground galaxy, NGC
3314a, there are numerous additional dark dust lanes that are not
associated with any bright young stars.
A small, red patch near the center of the image is the bright nucleus
of the background galaxy, NGC 3314b. It is reddened for the same
reason the setting sun looks red. When light passes through a volume
containing small particles (molecules in the Earth's atmosphere or
interstellar dust particles in galaxies), its color becomes redder.
The Hubble Heritage color image of NGC 3314 was constructed from
archival images taken with WFPC2 in April 1999 by Drs. William Keel
and Ray White III (University of Alabama) in blue and infrared light,
combined with new images obtained by the Heritage team in March 2000
using blue, green and red filters.
May 11, 2000
Credit: NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)