A Rare, Beautiful Galaxy Is Inching Closer To The Milky Way

Hubble Space Telescope snapped a beautiful photo of the Messier 90. The spiral galaxy is one of the few galaxies moving toward the Milky Way instead of away.  ( ESA/Hubble & NASA, W. Sargent et al. )

Millions and millions of galaxies exist beyond Earth, but due to the expansion of the universe, only a handful are headed toward the Milky Way.

The breathtaking Messier 90, also known as M90 or NGC 4569, is one of these rare galaxies that seem to be on a path that will eventually take it to Earth.

Meet The Messier 90

NASA and ESA's Hubble Space Telescope captured the image of the Messier 90 by combining visible, infrared, and ultraviolet light through the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2.

It's a beautiful spiral galaxy that was discovered by the famous French astronomer Charles Messier on March 18, 1781.

Located around 60 million light-years away from the Milky Way, it is a part of the constellation of Virgo. In fact, among more than 1,200 galaxies in the Virgo Cluster, Messier 90 is known to be the brightest member, according to Sci-News.

The staircase-like shape seen in the picture is typical of the images produced by the camera, since the camera consisted of four light detectors with overlapping fields of view and one detector providing higher magnification than the rest, according to a statement from Hubble. When scientists stitched together the four images, they had to reduce the size of the image from this particular detector for the final image to be properly aligned.

Messier 90's Trajectory Toward The Milky Way

Of course, it's not the beauty of Messier 90 that makes it particularly rare, but its trajectory.

Due to the constant expansion of the universe, nearly all of the galaxies that scientists detect are moving away from the Milky Way.

Messier 90 is unique as it is actually traveling in the direction of Earth's galactic neighborhood. Scientists know this because of the light coming from the spiral galaxy.

In a phenomenon known as blueshift, the galaxy compresses the wavelength of its light as it comes closer to Earth in the same way a slinky is squashed when its pushed on one end. As a result, the frequency of light increases and appears on the blue end of the spectrum.

"Astronomers think that this blueshift is likely caused by the cluster's colossal mass accelerating its members to high velocities on bizarre and peculiar orbits, sending them whirling around on odd paths that take them both towards and away from us over time," the Hubble statement revealed.

The entire Virgo Cluster is actually traveling away from the Milky Way, but a number of galaxies within are moving faster than the cluster so that from Earth, it appears as if these galaxies are moving toward the Milky Way.

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