This week’s image from the Hubble Space Telescope is stunning: the beautiful galaxy NCG 1097, captured by two of Hubble’s instruments working in tandem. Located 48 million light-years away in the constellation of Fornax, this barred spiral galaxy has a twisted shape caused by gravitational interactions with a nearby companion galaxy named NCG 1097A.
This particular galaxy is known for having been the scene of no fewer than three supernovae in the past two decades, with stars exploding in epic events as they approached the end of their lives. The supernovae were named SN 1992bd, SN 1999eu and SN 2003B, named after the years of their observations.
This image of NGC 1097 was acquired with two of Hubble’s instruments, the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). To create this one image, both instruments were used to observe the same target, and then data from both were combined to create the image.
“The idea that two different cameras can capture a single image is not very intuitive,” said Hubble scientists explain. “However, it makes a lot more sense after considering how beautifully composed such astronomical images are. Our eyes can detect light waves at optical wavelengths between about 380 and 750 nanometers using three types of receptors, each sensitive to only part of that range. Our brain interprets these specific wavelengths as colors. In contrast, a telescope camera like the WFC3 or ACS is sensitive to a single, broad range of wavelengths to maximize the amount of light collected. Raw images from telescopes are always grayscale, showing only the amount of light captured across all those wavelengths.”
Both the WFC3 and the ACS were used to image the galaxy at specific wavelengths controlled with filters. Each filter is used to view a specific wavelength corresponding to a specific color and produces a grayscale image. A total of seven of these filtered images were then combined to create the image shown above.
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