NICMOS finds a golden ring at the heart of a galaxy (NICMOS image)
The revived Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) aboard the NASA/ESA Hubble telescope has penetrated the dusty disc of the 'edge-on' galaxy NGC 4013 and looked right into the galactic core. To the surprise of astronomers, NICMOS found a brilliant band-like structure, that may be a ring of newly formed stars [yellow band in photo] seen edge-on.
NICMOS enables the Hubble telescope to see near-infrared wavelengths of light, so that it can penetrate the dust that obscures the inner hub of the galaxy. The ring-like structure seen by NICMOS encircles the core and is about 720 light-years wide, which is the typical size of most star-forming rings found in disc galaxies.
The human eye cannot see infrared light so colours have been assigned to correspond to near-infrared wavelengths. The blue light represents shorter near-infrared wavelengths and the red light corresponds to longer wavelengths.
NGC 4013, which looks similar to our Milky Way Galaxy, resides in the constellation Ursa Major, 55 million light-years from Earth.
This image, taken on 12 May 2002, is a colour composite image that was made by combining photographs taken through J-band, H-band, and Paschen-alpha filters.