Washington: NASA's Hubble Space telescope has managed to capture a portion of the Andromeda galaxy (M31) which is the sharpest large composite image ever taken of our galactic next-door neighbor.
The Hubble telescope is powerful enough to resolve individual stars in a 61,000-light-year-long stretch of the galaxy's pancake-shaped disk even though the galaxy is over 2 million light-years away.
There are lots of stars in this sweeping view over 100 million, with some of them in thousands of star clusters seen embedded in the disk.
Hubble traces densely packed stars extending from the innermost hub of the galaxy, seen at left. Moving out from this central galactic bulge, the panorama sweeps from the galaxy's central bulge across lanes of stars and dust to the sparser outer disk.
The image consists of large groups of young blue stars indicate the locations of star clusters and star-forming regions. The stars bunch up in the blue ring-like feature toward the right side of the image. The dark silhouettes trace out complex dust structures. Underlying the entire galaxy is a smooth distribution of cooler red stars that trace Andromeda's evolution over billions of years.
The panorama is the product of the Panchromatic Hubble Andromeda Treasury (PHAT) program. Images were obtained from viewing the galaxy in near-ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared wavelengths, using the Advanced Camera for Surveys and the Wide Field Camera 3 aboard Hubble.
This cropped view shows a 48,000-light-year-long stretch of the galaxy in its natural visible-light color, as photographed with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys in red and blue filters July 2010 through October 2013.