Hubble snaps a cosmic snowball

Space scientists have used the Hubble telescope to take a stunning photo of a galaxy that looks like a snowball in a cosmic blizzard. But this particular snowball measures hundreds of light-years from one side to the other and contains billions of stars like the Sun.

Galaxy NGC 4921The snowstorm that seems to surround it is a mixture of a few foreground stars in our own Milky Way and a background of other distant galaxies including some of the oldest in the universe.

Astronomers call the snowball NGC 4921. It is a spiral galaxy lying in a cluster of these “star cities” labelled Abell 1656 in the constellation of Coma Berenices – Queen Berenice’s Hair.

There are around 1,000 galaxies in the cluster which lies around 320 million light-years away from us. Most are older, have lost their spiral form and become elliptical in shape.

Fifty separate photos were taken to build this incredibly detailed picture using Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys.

Thousands of much more distant galaxies of all shapes, sizes and colours are visible in the picture. Many have the spotty and ragged appearance of galaxies as they appeared many billions of years ago in the early days of the universe.

Hubble has previously peered 13 billion years back in time to picture one of the earliest galaxies known. Last year a collection of amazing images of colliding galaxies taken by Hubble was released.

The new image was produced by a team led by Kem Cook, of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, California, during a search for stars that would help them derive a more accurate distance for the cluster of galaxies.

• What do you think? Skymania welcomes your comments and views. You can support this site by visiting Skymania’s stores in the USA, the UK, Canada and France. They are powered by Amazon so you can buy with confidence.

Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

Get free Skymania news updates by email

Sign up for alerts to our latest reports. No spam ever - we promise!


Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *