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Hubble telescope spies striking spiral galaxy that's part of a huge cosmic structure

The stunning spiral galaxy NGC 4571 as spotted by the Hubble Space Telescope. It is part of the vast Virgo Cluster that contains thousands of galaxies.
The stunning spiral galaxy NGC 4571 as spotted by the Hubble Space Telescope. It is part of the vast Virgo Cluster that contains thousands of galaxies. (Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, J. Lee and the PHANGS-HST Team)

The Hubble Space Telescope caught a galaxy on camera that underlies a much larger structure, known as the Virgo Cluster.

The image of spiral galaxy NGC 4571, approximately 60 million light-years from Earth, is part of a partnership between Hubble and other telescopes to provide more information about huge collections of stars.

The galaxy is part of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies that contains more than 1,000 members, the European Space Agency said in a statement. The cluster also encompasses the Local Group, which is the set of galaxies nearby and including our own galaxy, the Milky Way.

Astronomers are not only interested in looking at individual galaxies, but also at examining them in context of their environments to learn more about how stars are formed and how galaxies evolve over billions of years.

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

A full view of the spiral galaxy NGC 4571 as spotted by the Hubble Space Telescope (Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, J. Lee and the PHANGS-HST Team)

The fresh image of NGC 4571 is part of an observation program that combines work from Hubble with work from the ground-based Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile. 

Hubble is optimized for infrared (heat-seeking), ultraviolet and visual wavelengths, while ALMA's millimeter wavelengths (between infrared and radio) allow the 66 telescopes of the Chilean array to peer through dust at high resolution.

ALMA, explained the space agency, can "detect the clouds of cool interstellar dust which give rise to new stars," while Hubble's ultraviolet work "allows astronomers to pinpoint the location of hot, luminous, newly formed stars."

The project aims to provide a database of star-forming areas for future science, including deep-space observations from the James Webb Space Telescope that launched Dec. 25. Webb is aligning its mirrors and its instruments and is expected to start work in June.

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Elizabeth Howell
Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a contributing writer for Space.com since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she tackles topics like spaceflight, diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Her latest book, NASA Leadership Moments, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.