NASA has snapped a photograph of a galaxy using the Hubble Space Telescope a staggering 21 million lightyears from Earth which only has ‘one arm’. The galaxy is known as NGC 4618 and only has one spiral of stars originating from its galactic core.
NGC 4618 was first discovered in 1787 by the German-British astronomer William Herschel, who would go on to discover Uranus four years later.
Mr Herschel was originally studying “foggy” objects in the distant sky which were not stars or other celestial bodies.
The scientist went on to discover that these objects were large clusters of stars, which we now know of as galaxies.
NASA said: “Since Herschel proposed his theory, astronomers have come to understand that what he was seeing was a galaxy.
“NGC 4618, classified as a barred spiral galaxy, has the special distinction among other spiral galaxies of only having one arm rotating around the center of the galaxy.
“Located about 21 million light-years from our galaxy in the constellation Canes Venatici, NGC 4618 has a diameter of about one-third that of the Milky Way.
“Together with its neighbor, NGC 4625, it forms an interacting galaxy pair, which means that the two galaxies are close enough to influence each other gravitationally. These interactions may result in the two (or more) galaxies merging together to form a new formation, such as a ring galaxy.”
The Hubble Space Telescope is set to be retired in the coming year, with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) set to take its place in 2021.
The JWST is so powerful it will reach back to the furthest realms and the earliest moments of the universe.
JWST, which is named after NASA’s second administrator James Webb who served from 1961 to 1968 who played a major part in the Apollo missions, has the capability of scanning thousands of planets for alien life – even though those planets are thousands of light years away.
One of the major differences between Hubble and JWST will be how far back in time it will be able to see.
Hubble can see far into space and is essentially looking back in time as light travels to the craft.
Through Hubble, experts have been able to view the formation of the first galaxies, about one billion years after the Big Bang.
However, as JWST is much more powerful, it will be able to see just 0.3 billion years after the Big Bang to when visible light itself was beginning to form.
JWST will also be situated much farther out in space than Hubble. Hubble is placed in Earth’s orbit just 354,181 miles (570,000 kilometres) from the surface, but JWST will be placed an astonishing 932,056 miles (1.5 million kilometres) from Earth, meaning if it breaks down while it is up there, it will not be able to be fixed.