NICMOS finds a golden ring at the heart of a galaxy (NICMOS image)
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.
This picture, taken with a filter sensitive to hydrogen, shows the glow of stars and gas. Astronomers used this information to calculate the rate of star formation in the ring-like structure.
NGC 4013, which looks similar to our Milky Way Galaxy, resides in the constellation Ursa Major, 55 million light-years from Earth.
This image, obtained on 12 May 2002, was taken through the Paschen-alpha filter.