I can’t say I ever tire of looking at galaxies – the great islands of the universe home to billions of Suns. but the Hubble Space Telescope’s image of NGC 3344 shows a galaxy that in some ways is a lot like our own. Behold:
The bright stars with the diffraction spikes are nearby stars in our own Milky Way, so let’s get them (figuratively) out of the way and admire the beautiful galaxy beyond. NGC 3344 is 25 million light-years away, making it a cosmic neighbor to our own Milky Way, though it contains about half as many stars.
NGC 3344 is a spiral, like our Milky Way. It even has a subtle central bar, oriented vertically in the image. Our own galaxy has a similar bar at the center, though it is believed to be better defined NGC 3344’s. Because it’s relatively nearby, the galaxy covers a wider region of the sky than Hubble’s camera sees, so we only see about 1/3 of it here.
However, a wider field of view shows that the NGC 3344 has an extended, faint ring of stars surrounding it. It turns out this outer ring of stars is orbiting galactic central point in an opposite direction than the inner spiral arms. It’s not clear why this is the case, but it could be due to the cannibalization of a smaller passing galaxy some time ago.
If you haven’t already, check out the giant 3845×3049 version and admire this galaxy in all of Hubble’s glorious detail!