Two new eye-catching views from the Herschel space observatory are fit for a princess. They show the elegant spiral galaxy Andromeda, named after the mythical Greek princess known for her beauty.
The Andromeda galaxy, also known as Messier 31, lies 2 million
light-years away, and is the closest large galaxy to our own Milky Way.
It is estimated to have up to one trillion stars, whereas the Milky Way
contains hundreds of billions. Recent evidence suggests Andromeda's
overall mass may in fact be less than the mass of the Milky Way, when
dark matter is included.
Herschel, a European Space Agency mission with important NASA
contributions, sees the longer-wavelength infrared light from the
galaxy, revealing its rings of cool dust. Some of this dust is the very
coldest in the galaxy -- only a few tens of degrees above absolute zero.
In both views, warmer dust is highlighted in the central regions by
different colors. New stars are being born in this central, crowded hub,
and throughout the galaxy's rings in dusty knots. Spokes of dust can
also be seen between the rings.
One view, seen at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA16682
, is a mosaic of data from Herschel's Photodetecting Array Camera and
Spectrometer (PACS) and spectral and photometric imaging receiver
The second view, seen at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA16681 , shows data from only the SPIRE instrument, which captures the longest of wavelengths detectable by Herschel.
Herschel is a European Space Agency cornerstone mission, with science
instruments provided by consortia of European institutes and with
important participation by NASA. NASA's Herschel Project Office is based
at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. JPL contributed
mission-enabling technology for two of Herschel's three science
instruments. The NASA Herschel Science Center, part of the Infrared
Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology
in Pasadena, supports the United States astronomical community. Caltech
manages JPL for NASA.