For the first time, astronomers are able to see individual stars inside an external spiral galaxy. The picture is one of the sharpest and largest images that have ever been captured of the Andromeda galaxy.
"This ambitious photographic cartography of the Andromeda galaxy represents a new benchmark for precision studies of large spiral galaxies that dominate the universe's population of over 100 billion galaxies," according to a statement of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), which operates the telescope.
Complex instruments inside the telescope work together to capture light from the cosmos and convert it into digital data. It is then transmitted back to Earth. The image also stretches across 48,000 light-years of the galaxy’s disk, according to space.com.
It also shows more than 100 million stars in the galaxy. With its lens, Hubble can trace “densely packed stars” that are traced from the innermost hub of the galaxy.
“Most of the stars in the universe live inside such majestic star cities, and this is the first data that reveal populations of stars in context to their home galaxy,” STScI said.
Experts note that Andromeda and the Milky Way are currently on a collision course. The two galaxies are expected to merge to form a new galaxy in a billion years.
The new image will further help scientists interpret other spiral galaxies, according to Space.com.