Hubble Space Telescope Captures Image of Lens-Like Galaxy NGC 3156
by Chen Juncun
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has once again astounded astronomers with its latest image, this time capturing a stunning photograph of a lens-like galaxy. The lenticular galaxy, known as NGC 3156, appears to have a foggy appearance in the image released by NASA.
Situated in the small southern constellation Sextans, approximately 73 million light-years away from Earth, NGC 3156 was first discovered by British astronomer William Herschel in 1784. Herschel, famous for his groundbreaking discovery of the planet Uranus, found this mysterious galaxy that continues to captivate scientists.
NGC 3156 stands out with its two visible lanes of dark reddish-brown dust running across the galaxy’s disk. This type of galaxy, named for its lens-like shape when viewed from the side or edge, falls between an elliptical and a spiral galaxy, exhibiting characteristics from both.
Similar to spiral galaxies, lenticular galaxies possess a central concentration of stars surrounded by a vast disk. However, they lack the prominent spiral arms that spiral galaxies are known for. On the other hand, lenticular galaxies, like elliptical galaxies, consist mainly of aged stars with very few still undergoing formation.
Scientists have extensively studied NGC 3156, exploring various aspects such as the formation of new stars and the destruction of stars caused by its central supermassive black hole. By examining data gathered from the Hubble Space Telescope, researchers compared stars near the core of NGC 3156 to stars in other galaxies with similarly sized black holes. The results revealed that NGC 3156 had a higher-than-average rate of stars being consumed by supermassive black holes compared to its counterparts.
The sextant constellation, where NGC 3156 is situated, is named after the sextant instrument historically used for measuring the height of stars. It belongs to the Hercules family of constellations, a grouping of different constellations in a shared area. Despite its historical significance, modern astronomy has replaced the sextant with more accurate instruments for measuring celestial bodies and star positions.
The Hubble Space Telescope’s image of NGC 3156 provides further insight into the unique characteristics of this lens-like galaxy. As scientists continue to delve deeper into the mysteries of the universe, the Hubble’s remarkable images serve as a reminder of the vastness and beauty of space.