M61, one of the largest members of the Virgo cluster of galaxies, is well positioned for amateurs in the evening sky, a face-on spiral that features a hidden, 5-million solar-mass black hole in its luminous core. It was first observed in 1779 and remains a popular target for Earth- and space-based telescopes. This spectacular image combines data from the Hubble Space Telescope and the FORS camera on the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, revealing an unprecedented wealth of detail. Located more than 52 million light years from Earth, M61 is formally classified as an intermediate barred spiral. It’s also a prodigious starburst galaxy with brilliant ruby-red patches of recent star formation. Remarkably, eight supernovae have been spotted in M61 since the first was noted in 1926.
NGC 247 is a relatively small spiral galaxy in the southern constellation of Cetus (The Whale), part of the Sculptor Group around 11 million light-years from us. NGC 247 displays one particularly unusual and mysterious feature — an apparent void in the usual swarm of stars and H II regions in the northern part of its disc that spans almost a third of the galaxy’s total length.
University of Texas astronomer Natalie Gosnell has used the Hubble Space Telescope to better understand why some stars aren’t evolving as predicted. These so-called “blue stragglers” look hotter and bluer than they should for their advanced age. It’s almost as it they were somehow reinvigorated to look much younger than they really are.