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News Release 167 of 325

August 5, 2004 09:00 AM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-2004-25

Hubble Images Majestic Cousin of the Milky Way

A Hubble Heritage Release

August 5, 2004: Our Sun and solar system are embedded in a broad pancake of stars deep within the disk of the Milky Way galaxy. Even from a distance, it is impossible to see our galaxy’s large-scale features other than the disk. The next best thing is to look farther out into the universe at galaxies that are similar in shape and structure to our home galaxy. Other spiral galaxies like NGC 3949, pictured in the Hubble image, fit the bill.

Q & A: Understanding the Discovery

  1. 1. Does NGC 3949 resemble our galaxy?

  2. Like our Milky Way, this galaxy has a blue disk of young stars peppered with bright pink star-birth regions. In contrast to the blue disk, the bright central bulge is made up of mostly older, redder stars.

  3. 2. Where is NGC 3949 located?

  4. NGC 3949 lies about 50,000,000 light-years from Earth. It is a member of a loose cluster of some six or seven dozen galaxies located in the direction of the Big Dipper, in the constellation Ursa Major. It is one of the larger galaxies of this cluster.

  5. 3. How was this image created?

  6. This image of NGC 3949 was created from Hubble data taken with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 in October, 2001. Separate exposures through blue, visible, and near-infrared filters have been combined to make the natural-color picture. This image was produced by the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI).

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Image Credit: NASA, ESA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Acknowledgment: S. Smartt (The Queen's University of Belfast)