Hubble image shows glimpse of stunning ‘hidden galaxy’

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IC 342 Galaxy

Scientists have spotted the stunning IC 342 spiral galaxy that is located in the constellation Camelopardalis, approximately 8.9 million light-years away.

The IC 342 a.k.a. UGC 2847, LEDA 13826 and Caldwell 5, was discovered in 1895 by British astronomer William Frederick Denning; however, it is obscured by dust. The galaxy is one of the brightest galaxies in the IC 342/Maffei group of galaxies.

Although IC 342 is bright, it sits near the equator of the Milky Way’s galactic disc, where the sky is thick with glowing cosmic gas, bright stars, and dark, obscuring dust. The galaxy is difficult to spot as astronomers must gaze through a large amount of material contained within the Milky Way.  As a result IC 342 is relatively difficult to spot and image, giving rise to its intriguing nickname: the ‘Hidden Galaxy.’

In the Catalogue of Named Galaxies, IC 342 is called Stellivelatus Camelopardalis (star-veiled galaxy). The galaxy is very active, as indicated by the range of colors visible in this Hubble image, depicting the very central region of the galaxy. A beautiful mixture of hot, blue star-forming regions, redder, cooler regions of gas, and dark lanes of opaque dust can be seen, all swirling together around a bright core.

In 2003, astronomers confirmed this core to be a specific type of central region known as an HII nucleus — a name that indicates the presence of ionized hydrogen — that is likely to be creating many hot new stars. The color image of IC 342 was made from separate exposures taken in the visible and UV regions of the spectrum with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3).

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