12 November 2010

In what appears to be another example of life imitating science fiction, scientists believe they have found a crack in the universe...well...sort of!

Like a thin band of light stretched across space, it looks like some sort of intergalactic letterbox.

But the extraordinary image to the right is in fact a distant galaxy called NGC 4452, captured as it lies directly edge-on to Earth.

The result is an extraordinary picture taken by the Hubble space telescope of billions of stars observed from an unusual angle. The bright nucleus can be seen at the centre, along with the very thin disc that looks like a straight line from our unusual viewing position.

A hazy halo of stars on the periphery of the galaxy makes it seem to glow.

NGC 4452 was first seen by William Herschel in 1784 with his 18.5inch telescope in England. He described the object as a bright nebula, small and very much elongated. The new Hubble image shows just how elongated this unusual object really is.

Galaxies typically contain many billions of stars and can also be grouped in galaxy clusters. NGC 4452 is part of the Virgo Cluster which lies approximately 60 million light-years distant and contains around 2000 galaxies.

Our own Milky Way is also believed to be extremely thin.

[Source: Daily Mail]

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