NASA's Hubble Telescope Spies Galactic Traffic Jam (Photo Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, P. Erwin et al.)
Hubble Space Telescope, which belongs to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA), has captured that image of a ‘galactic traffic jam’ more than 60 million light-years away. Yes, you read it right. Notably, Hubble is no stranger to spiral galaxies. The telescope has brought us some of the most beautiful images ever taken of our spiral neighbours - and the galaxy known as NGC 3887 is no exception. Hubble’s high-resolution Wide Field Camera 3 has taken a picture of a barred spiral galaxy NGC 3887 that lies over 60 million light-years away from us in the southern constellation of Crater (the Cup).
Hubble saw NGC 3887’s spiral arms and central bulge in detail, making it an ideal target for studying a spiral galaxy’s winding arms and the stars within them. In a statement, NASA said that the galaxy NGC 3887 was first discovered by astronomer William Herschel on December 31, 1785.
The US space agency further said, "The very existence of spiral arms was for a long time a problem for astronomers. The arms emanate from a spinning core and should therefore become wound up ever more tightly, causing them to eventually disappear after a (cosmologically) short amount of time. It was only in the 1960s that astronomers came up with the solution to this winding problem - rather than behaving like rigid structures, spiral arms are in fact areas of greater density in a galaxy’s disk, with dynamics similar to those of a traffic jam."
"The density of cars moving through a traffic jam increases at the center of the jam, where they move more slowly. Spiral arms function in a similar way - as gas and dust move through the density waves, they become compressed and linger before moving out of them again," it added.
The discovery of a ‘galactic traffic jam’ comes days after Hubble Telescope snapped a picture of an archetypal spiral galaxy named NGC 691.
Recently, Hubble team has won the 2020 Michael Collins Trophy. Through its 30 years of discoveries and awesome celestial images, the legendary Hubble Space Telescope has redefined the universe for new generations of astronomers and the public alike. In recognition of Hubble's scientific prowess and longevity, the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC has awarded its 2020 Collins Trophy for Current Achievement to the Hubble operations team.