This Lonely Galaxy Looks 'Lost In Space' in Hubble Telescope Photo

The spiral galaxy NGC 6503
The spiral galaxy NGC 6503 is seen in this view of combined images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. The galaxy is 18 million light-years from Earth in the Local Void, a region so sparsely populated by stars and galaxies that scientists billed NGC 6503 as "lost in space." (Image credit: NASA, ESA, D. Calzetti (University of Massachusetts), H. Ford (Johns Hopkins University), and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration)

Poised on the edge of a galactic desert is NGC 6503, a galaxy that appears so alone in the universe that some scientists have called it "lost in space."

The galaxy takes center stage in a new image from the Hubble Space Telescope, which shows NGC 6503 shining in visible and ultraviolet light, with different colors denoting zones of gas and star birth. NASA and the European Space Agency unveiled the image on Wednesday (June 10).

In the image, galaxy NGC 6503 appears to stand alone beside an area dubbed the Local Void, a cosmic dead zone that is at least 150 million light-years across. The galaxy itself is about 18 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Draco. [Latest Photos from the Hubble Space Telescope]

"The galaxy's odd location on the edge of this never-land led stargazer Stephen James O'Meara to dub it the 'Lost-In-Space galaxy' in his 2007 book, Hidden Treasures," NASA wrote in an image description that labeled NGC 6503 "lost in space."

Hubble's image shows a variety of zones within the image, which is about 30,000 light-years across or a third of the size of the Milky Way.

Red patches in the image denote gas, blue contains new stars, and dust lanes (in dark brown) stretch across the lighter arms and center of the galaxy.

The images are based on two sets of observations collected by Hubble, first in 2003 (by the Hubble Advanced Camera for Surveys) and then in 2013 (by the Wide Field Camera 3.) The final image was released on Wednesday. 

The Hubble Space Telescope is celebrating 25 years of operations this year. It is one of NASA's most famous space telescopes. Among its many discoveries, the Hubble telescope has helped narrow down the age of the universe and provided more proof that stars form from zones of gas.

One advantage of Hubble's long life is it allows astronomers to revisit images they took before, to see how the zone has changed or evolved. One recent example of this was watching the disintegration of the famous "Pillars of Creation"in the Eagle Nebula, NASA officials wrote.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: