New 'Little Sombrero' image is a feather in Hubble's cap

An image of the Little Sombrero (NGC 7814 or Caldwell 43) obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope.
An image of the Little Sombrero (NGC 7814 or Caldwell 43) obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope. (Image credit: NASA, ESA, and R. de Jong (Leibniz-Institut fur Astrophysik Potsdam); Image processing: G. Kober (NASA Goddard/Catholic University of America))

A newly released Hubble Space Telescope image shows the rim of a galactic "sombrero" shining in the dark.

This galaxy is nicknamed the "Little Sombrero" for its hat-like appearance; its more official name is NGC 7814 or Caldwell 43, depending on the catalog you use.

The dusty spiral takes its name after the more famous Sombrero galaxy, which is positioned a little less edge-on to us and appears brighter because it is closer.

In reality, the two galaxies (Sombrero and Little Sombrero) are nearly the same size, NASA officials wrote in a post (opens in new tab) last month.

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

The Little Sombrero (NGC 7814 or Caldwell 43) as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. (Image credit: NASA, ESA, and R. de Jong (Leibniz-Institut fur Astrophysik Potsdam); Image processing: G. Kober (NASA Goddard/Catholic University of America))

"Set against a speckled backdrop of more remote galaxies, the Little Sombrero features a bright central bulge, a thin disk full of dust, and a glowing halo of gas and stars that sprawls out into space," NASA officials stated.

The Little Sombrero, officials added in the May 12 update, "is roughly 40 million light-years from Earth, 80,000 light-years-wide, and billions of years old." By contrast, the Sombrero galaxy is 28 million light-years away.

The Little Sombrero image was first obtained in 2006 using visible and infrared observations by Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys. It's quite common for scientists to revisit older images like this as a part of long-term surveys of parts of the sky, or of celestial objects.

"The observations were taken to assist astronomers in studying the galaxy’s stellar populations, and to help shed light on the evolution of this galaxy and others like it," NASA said of the 2006 work.

Hubble itself has been running since 1990, providing more than 32 years of long-term observational change in objects ranging from gas clouds to the outer planets. It is expected to remain operational for several years yet, working in tandem soon with the NASA's next-generation James Webb Space Telescope that launched in December 2021 and that should start operations officially this July.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. Elizabeth's reporting includes an exclusive with Office of the Vice-President of the United States, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, 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 (soon) a Bachelor of History from Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace