Hubble captures one of a pair of hat-shaped galaxies

This week’s image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows the delightfully named Little Sombrero galaxy, so named for its long thin shape with a bulge in the center reminiscent of the shape of the traditional Mexican hat.

The Little Sombrero galaxy, also known as NGC 7814 or Caldwell 43, is located 40 million light-years away and is relatively small, measuring 80,000 light-years in diameter. For reference, our Milky Way galaxy is larger at about 106,000 light-years in diameter. The Little Sombrero has another distinguishing feature in addition to its shape, as it is a particularly dusty galaxy. Dust mainly accumulates in the disk, while the central bulge is brighter and full of stars illuminating the gas around it.

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope allows astronomers to view galaxies of all shapes and sizes from almost any angle. When a galaxy is viewed from the side, the mesmerizing perspective reveals a dazzling part of the universe. The “Little Sombrero”, also known as NGC 7814 or Caldwell 43, is one such galaxy.

The Little Sombrero is one of a matching pair of galaxies, with an older sibling called the Sombrero Galaxy. The Sombrero Galaxy is actually about the same size as the Little Sombrero, but because it’s closer to us, it appears larger in the sky. The Sombrero Galaxy, also known as Messier 104, is 28 million light-years away and is similar in shape to a broad disk when viewed from the side, with a central bulge.

The Sombrero galaxy has also been captured by Hubble, in a famous image released in 2003. This galaxy can also be seen from Earth from Earth, so it has a similar shape. This image was chosen to celebrate Hubble’s fifth anniversary because of the high level of detail that shows the beautiful galaxy as captured in what was at the time one of the largest mosaics ever assembled from Hubble data. It was created from six separate images to capture the entire galaxy in all its glory.

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has its razor-sharp eye on one of the universe’s most stately and photogenic galaxies, the Sombrero Galaxy, Messier 104 (M104). The galaxy’s hallmark is a brilliant white, spherical core, surrounded by the thick dust lanes that make up the galaxy’s spiral structure. NASA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

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