"What Resides Within?" Hubble's Epic Image of the Triangulum Galaxy

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Hubble captures awe-inspiring PHOTO of Triangulum galaxy that spans 19,400 light-years As the holiday season draws to a close, the Hubble telescope has provided one truly massive parting gift: an immensely detailed photo of one of our galactic neighbors that spans 19,400 light-years across. As noted on the website of the Observatory, the galaxy is the third largest object of the Local group and the most distant that can be seen with the naked eye.

You may have spotted the Triangulum Galaxy-also known as Messier 33 or NGC 598-on a particularly clear night: it's that faint, blurry object in the constellation of Triangulum (the Triangle).

The mosaic of the Triangulum Galaxy showcases the central region of the galaxy and its inner spiral arms.

It measures only about 60,000 light-years across, compared to the 200,000 light-years of the Andromeda Galaxy; the Milky Way lies between these extremes at about 100,000 light-years in diameter.

This image of the Triangulum Galaxy is a composite of about 54 different pointings with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys.

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The full image contains nearly 25 million stars, and will help scientists study not just the Triangulum Galaxy, but Andromeda and our own. The remaining galaxies of the group orbit any one of these three larger members. Today, September 9, 2009, NASA released the first images taken with the Hubble Space Telescope since its fix in the spring.

This image is only a tiny part of the large wide-field image of the Triangulum Galaxy created by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Another difference between the Triangulum Galaxy and the two more popular spiral galaxies is that the former does not have a bright bulge in its center. What it does have, however, is a huge amount of gas and dust that allows for stars to be formed at a rapid rate of approximately one solar mass every two years. When stars are born, they use up material in these clouds of gas and dust, leaving less fuel for new stars to emerge.

These enormous stellar nurseries rank among the largest and brightest in the Local Cluster, shining with the light of ionized hydrogen.It was the presence of these active star forming regions that led astronomers to target Messier 33 with the Hubble telescope.

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