February 21 Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2022 February 21

This is the first image of a celestial object taken with the newly repaired Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). The camera was restored to operation during the STS-125 Servicing Mission to upgrade the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The barred spiral galaxy NGC 6217 was photographed on 13 June and 8 July 2009, as part of the initial testing and calibration of Hubble’s ACS. The galaxy lies up to 90 million light-years away in the north circumpolar constellation Ursa Major.

Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 6217

Image Credit: NASAESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team

Explanation: Many spiral galaxies have bars across their centers. Even our own Milky Way Galaxy is thought to have a modest central bar. Prominently barred spiral galaxy NGC 6217, featured here, was captured in spectacular detail in this image taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys on the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope in 2009. Visible are dark filamentary dust lanes, young clusters of bright blue stars, red emission nebulas of glowing hydrogen gas, a long bar of stars across the center, and a bright active nucleus that likely houses a supermassive black hole. Light takes about 60 million years to reach us from NGC 6217, which spans about 30,000 light years across and can be found toward the constellation of the Little Bear (Ursa Minor).


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