HomeAstronomyDracarys! Spiral galaxy in constellation Draco helps measure space

Dracarys! Spiral galaxy in constellation Draco helps measure space

Unlike the dragon-filled show “House of the Dragon,” the bright heat from this celestial monster spotted by the Hubble Space Telescope is nothing to be feared. In fact, it’s a super helpful tool that helps gauge the expansion of the universe.

The spiral galaxy UGC 9391 is located within the constellation Draco (the dragon), a long serpentine patch of sky that never appears in the southern sky because of its location near the celestial north pole. Astronomers have peered into this sliver of sky between the Big Dipper and Little Dipper because the light from certain stars within galaxy UGC 9391 are special beacons. A recently published image from the Hubble Space Telescope showcases UGC 9391 against a backdrop of ultra-distant galaxies, and a Sept. 30 image description (opens in new tab) calls it “lonely.”

What it lacks in company it makes up for in character. According to the European Space Agency’s (ESA) description – it manages the iconic observatory alongside NASA – galaxy UGC 9391 is packed with two fascinating light sources: Cepheid variable stars and a Type IA supernova. These help astronomers figure out distances in space. 

This full view of the spiral galaxy UGC 9391 as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope shows the isolated galaxy against a starry backdrop. Bright nearby stars have diffraction spikes with background galaxies as distant swirls. (Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, A. Riess et al)

“This image is from a set of Hubble observations which astronomers used to construct the ‘Cosmic Distance Ladder’ – a set of connected measurements that allow astronomers to determine how far the most distant astronomical objects are,” ESA writes in the description.

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