Some 45 light years from Earth, the galaxy NGC 4051 was discovered in the constellation Ursa Major by John Herschel in 1788. It is part of a spiral-rich subset of the Virgo supercluster of galaxies that includes the Milky Way. Classified as a Seyfert galaxy, NGC 4051 hosts a supermassive black hole in its core with 1.7 million times the mass of the Sun. Multiple supernovae blasts have been observed in the galaxy over the past several decades, the first in 1983 and the most recent in 2010 when the core of a massive star that had already lost its outer layers of hydrogen and helium exploded in a type 1c supernova. Such explosions are sometimes referred to as stripped core-collapse supernovae. This beautifully rendered view of NGC 4051 was captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.
Peering deep into the heart of our home galaxy, the Milky Way, the Hubble Space Telescope reveals a rich tapestry of more than half a million stars. Most of the stars pictured in the image are members of the Milky Way nuclear star cluster, the densest and most massive star cluster in the galaxy. Hidden in the centre is the Milky Way’s resident supermassive black hole.
The TV series “Star Trek” captured the public’s imagination with the signature phrase, “To boldly go where no one has gone before.” The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope doesn’t “boldly go” deep into space, but it is “boldly peering” deeper into the universe than ever before to explore the warping of space and time and uncover some of the farthest objects ever seen.