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​Galactic starburst spied by Hubble Space Telescope

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This image shows the galaxy Messier 94, which lies in the small northern constellation of the Hunting Dogs, about 16 million light-years away. ESA/Hubble & NASA

The Hubble Space Telescope has captured this stunning image of a so-called starburst ring round the galaxy Messier 94. The galaxy lies in the small northern constellation of the Hunting Dogs, about 16 million light-years away from Earth.

The sparkling ring around the center of the galaxy is a star-forming region filled with many bright, young stars.

NASA and ESA scientists believe the oddly-shaped ring is likely a pressure wave reaching out from the center, which is compressing the gas and dust in the outer region, causing the gas to collapse into dense clouds. Inside these clouds, gravity pulls the dust and gas together, increasing the temperature and the pressure until stars are born.

Hubble has also recently created stunning images of other galaxies in the Messier Catalog, a list of 110 galaxies, nebulas and star clusters observed and described by French astronomer Charles Messier in the 18th century.

Here is a photo taken on Sept. 11 of galaxy Messier 63. The pattern of spiral arms earned Messier 63 its nickname, the Sunflower Galaxy. It is also in the Hunting Dogs constellation, but further out, about 27 million light-years away.

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The arrangement of the spiral arms in the galaxy Messier 63, seen here in a new image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, recall the pattern at the centre of a sunflower. ESA/Hubble & NASA

Further still is Messier 96, a strikingly asymmetric galaxy -- about the same size as the Milky Way -- that is 35 million light-years from Earth. This image, taken Sept. 4, shows that the galaxy's dust and gas are spread unevenly throughout its spiral arms, and its core is not at the center. Its weak spiral arms are also asymmetrical, which experts think may be a result of gravitational pull from other galaxies in M96 Group.

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This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows Messier 96, a spiral galaxy just over 35 million light-years away in the constellation of Leo (The Lion). ESA/Hubble & NASA and the LEGUS Team Acknowledgement: R. Gendler
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