Hubble’s Lonely Firework Display

Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

February 9, 2018 – Roughly 50 million light-years away lies a somewhat overlooked little galaxy named NGC 1559. Pictured here by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3, this barred spiral lies in the little-observed southern constellation of Reticulum (the Reticule).

NGC 1559 has massive spiral arms chock-full of star formation, and is receding from us at a speed of about 808 miles per second (1,300 kilometers per second). The galaxy contains the mass of around ten billion suns — while this may sound like a lot, it is over 20 times less massive than the Milky Way. Although NGC 1559 appears in the sky near one of our closest galaxy neighbors, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), this is just a trick of perspective. In reality, NGC 1559 is physically nowhere near the LMC in space — in fact, it truly is a loner, lacking the company of any nearby galaxies or membership of any galaxy cluster.

Despite its lack of cosmic companions, when this lonely galaxy has a telescope pointed in its direction, it puts on quite a show. NGC 1559 has hosted a variety of spectacular exploding stars called supernovae, four of which we have observed — in 1984, 1986, 2005, and 2009.

NGC 1559 may be alone in space, but we are watching and admiring from far away.

Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 was built by Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colorado.