Hubble telescope captures stunning shot of spiral galaxy (photo)

hubble photo of a spiral galaxy in deep space, with more distant galaxies in the background
Hubble photo of the spiral galaxy UGC 11860, which is located roughly 184 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Pegasus. (Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, A. Filippenko, J. D. Lyman)

A dazzling new photo from the Hubble Space Telescope shows a distant galaxy that hosted a supernova explosion not long ago.

The featured galaxy, known as UGC 11860, is located roughly 184 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Pegasus. It's a spiral galaxy like our own Milky Way, exhibiting the telltale arms that curve out from its dense, bright central region. 

UGC 11860 appears to float serenely in space in the new Hubble photo, which NASA shared on July 7. However, it recently hosted an almost "unimaginably energetic stellar explosion," according to a statement from the space agency. 

Related: The best Hubble Space Telescope images of all time!

When a massive star reaches the end of its life, it dies in a dramatic explosion called a supernova. Supernovas are incredibly luminous and powerful, blasting large amounts of material into space and creating expanding shells of gas and dust that can be observed as a supernova remnant. 

"The hugely energetic processes during supernova explosions are predominantly responsible for forging the elements between silicon and nickel on the periodic table," NASA officials said in the statement. "This means that understanding the influence of the masses and compositions of the progenitor star systems is vital to explaining how many of the chemical elements here on Earth originated."

The observations of UGC 11860 were taken in 2014, using Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3. Data from the space telescope has allowed astronomers to study the aftermath of the stellar explosion and lingering remnants in the galaxy. 

Observations of supernova remnants like the one in UGC 11860 can help astronomers learn more about the star systems that fuel such cosmic explosions.

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Samantha Mathewson
Contributing Writer

Samantha Mathewson joined as an intern in the summer of 2016. She received a B.A. in Journalism and Environmental Science at the University of New Haven, in Connecticut. Previously, her work has been published in Nature World News. When not writing or reading about science, Samantha enjoys traveling to new places and taking photos! You can follow her on Twitter @Sam_Ashley13.