The ESA/NASA Hubble Space Telescope has managed to capture a magnificent image of the core region of a barred spiral galaxy known as NGC 3887. The galaxy is located about 60 million light-years distance in the southern constellation of Crater (The Cup).
It is also called LEDA 36754 or UGCA 246 and was identified on December 31st of 1785 by the German-born British astronomer William Herschel. The barred spiral galaxy has been captured using Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 in the infrared and optical regions of the spectrum. It is based on information collected through three different filters.
NGC 3887’s orientation to Earth, even though it is not exactly face-on, enables researchers to see its spiral arms and core area in detail. This makes it a perfect target for analyzing a spiral galaxy‘s twisted arms and the stars within them.
Spirals Arms Resemble Traffic Jams Here on Earth
The existence of these spiral arms was a long-term issue for astronomers all over the world.
“The arms emanate from a spinning core and should, therefore, become wound up ever more tightly, causing them to eventually disappear after a (cosmologically) short amount of time,” the post accompanying the image reads. “It was only in the 1960s that scientists came up with the solution to this winding problem.”
Instead of acting like steady and rigid structures, these spiral arms are, in fact, regions abounding in density inside a galaxy‘s disk, with behaviors similar to those of a traffic jam. The density of cars traveling through the traffic jam enhances at the core of the jam, where they tend to move a lot slower. Spiral arms behave in a similar manner. As gas and dust travel through the density waves, they end up being pressed and delayed, before getting out of them again, the Hubble astronomers explained.