Stunning Nasa photo reveals 'gorgeous island galaxy' that measures 100,000 light years across

NASA has revealed a stunning image of a massive galaxy 47million light years away.

The enormous M77 galaxy was snapped by the Hubble Space Telescope – and can be seen in exceptional detail.

M77, or Messier 77, is staggering in size at 100,000 light years across.

It was first discovered by French astronomer Pierre Méchain in 1780.

He thought it was a nebula – a giant cloud of dust and gas in space

But the discovery was later communicated to fellow Gallic stargazer Charles Messier, who described it as a star cluster.

Now, however, we know it to be a massive galaxy.

This week, Nasa described it as a "gorgeous island universe" – seen face-on with a bright core.

The compact and luminous centre is well-studied by astronomers trying to investigate the mysterious of supermassive black holes.

Nasa's latest image of the galaxy is pin-sharp, and was captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.

It's dominated by red light, which is emitted by the abundant hydrogen in the galaxy.

"The image shows details of the spiral's winding spiral arms as traced by obscuring dust clouds," Nasa explained.

"And red-tinted star-forming regions close in to the galaxy's luminous core."

What is the Hubble Space Telescope?

Here's what you need to know…

  • The Hubble Space Telescope is a telescope that captures images while in space
  • It was launched into a low-Earth orbit in 1990 and is still fully operational
  • The advantage of Hubble is that it takes photos from outside of Earth's atmosphere
  • This means distortion from the atmosphere is removed, allowing for more accurate image capture
  • Nasa's Hubble has captured some of most detailed images of space ever recorded
  • The Hubble telescope was also able to accurately determine the rate at which the universe was expanding
  • Hubble is also the only telescope that was designed to be serviced by astronauts in space
  • Five different missions have been launched to repair, upgrade or replace parts of the Hubble telescope
  • It's believed that the Hubble telescope could continue working until 2040
  • But its successor – the James Webb Space Telescope – is already set for launch in March 2021

M77 is an active galaxy with a nucleus that's obscured from view by astronomical dust.

It's one of the brightest and best-studied of this type of galaxy.

Only one supernova (a powerful stellar explosion) has been detected in M77 – SN 2018ivc, found on November 24, 2018.

In other news, Nasa recently revealed the "space home" where the first ISS tourists will enjoy panoramic views of Earth.

The water that once flowed on Mars contained just the right ingredients to support life, scientists say.

And, the first ever cookie to be baked in space was cooked aboard the ISS.

Do you think humans will ever visit Mars or beyond in person? Let us know in the comments!

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