Hubble Photographed a Hidden Galaxy

The presented image was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. It shows the spiral galaxy IC 342, also known by the designation Caldwell 5.

Galaxy IC 342 (photo by Hubble). Source: NASA, ESA, P. Sell (University of Florida), and P. Kaaret (University of Iowa)

IC 342 is located at a distance of 11 million light years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Camelopardalis. The diameter of its disk is 50 thousand light years, it is home to about 100 billion luminaries. For comparison, according to various estimates, the stellar population of the Milky Way is from 200 to 400 billion stars.

Hubble’s photo shows dark dust filaments wrapping around the bright core of IC 342. It is a special type of region called the H II zone of ionized hydrogen. Such regions are places of rapid star formation, where thousands of new luminaries can form in a couple of million years. Their powerful ultraviolet radiation ionizes the surrounding hydrogen, causing it to glow. 

Taking into account the relatively small distance, a significant number of bright luminaries, as well as a successful orientation with the Earth, IC 342 would have to be one of the brightest objects in deep space, available for observation even with a small telescope. But, unfortunately, in the terrestrial sky, the galaxy is located near the equator of the Milky Way. The powerful clouds of interstellar gas and dust filling the center of our galaxy in the center of the Milky Way make it extremely difficult to observe it. Therefore, the unofficial nickname of the hidden galaxy was assigned to IC 342.

Recall that Hubble recently photographed a star that survived a near supernova explosion.

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