Hubble sees double to mark 27 years in orbit

NGC 4302 and NGC 4298
This Hubble image, marking the 27th anniversary of the space telescope’s launch, features the edge-on spiral galaxy NGC 4302 and the tilted galaxy NGC 4298. (STScI / NASA / ESA Photo / M. Mutchler)

It’s traditional for the team behind the Hubble Space Telescope to release a jaw-dropping picture to celebrate the anniversary of the observatory’s launch in April 1990, and this year’s image might well rate a double jaw drop.

The science team’s greeting card for Hubble’s 27th birthday features side-by-side views of two spiral galaxies much like our own Milky Way galaxy, seen from two angles.

The edge-on galaxy at left, NGC 4302, is about 60 percent of the Milky Way’s size and contains about 10 percent of our home galaxy’s mass, the Hubble team says in today’s image advisory.

The galaxy at right, NGC 4298, is tilted about 70 degrees as seen from Earth, and measures about a third as wide as the Milky Way. It weighs in at 17 billion solar masses, which is less than 2 percent of the Milky Way’s 1 trillion solar masses.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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