About two thirds of spiral galaxies, including the Milky Way, feature a central bar of stars and long arms spiralling loosely around the nucleus. NGC 613, discovered in 1798 by William Hershel, provides a textbook example as seen in this beautifully detailed image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope and released 11 January. NGC 613 is located about 67 million light years from Earth in the southern constellation Sculptor.
Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) have discovered a tsunami of stars and gas that is crashing midway through the disc of a spiral galaxy known as IC 2163. This colossal wave of material — which was triggered when IC 2163 recently sideswiped another spiral galaxy dubbed NGC 2207 — produced dazzling arcs of intense star formation that resemble a pair of eyelids.
For the first time astronomers were able to analyse the atmosphere of a super-Earth exoplanet. Using data gathered with the Hubble Space Telescope and new analysis techniques, the exoplanet 55 Cancri e some 40 light-years away is revealed to have an atmosphere consists mainly of hydrogen and helium without any indications of water vapour.