The grand Hubble Space Telescope has been dazzling the world with some of the most beautiful pictures of our universe ever taken (and not to mention some great science!). As a part of the International Year of Astronomy, the team that runs Hubble held a You Decide contest. The general public was allowed to vote on where the telescope would point to next in the sky. The winner…Arp 274 (aka NGC 5679, aka a Peculiar Galaxy)!
The above is an image of the winning selection! Arp 274 is classified as a peculiar galaxy in that it does not follow a traditional spiral or elliptical shape. Halton Arp developed the original list of 338 peculiar galaxies. Arp 274 is one of just a handful of known “tripletts”, three galaxies all interacting with one another.
This is a stunning photo! Up until now, many of the best pictures for this region of the sky were fuzzy and in black & white. Well, the Hubs has changed all that. I am sure that it was just coincidence that the announcement for the winner of this contest happened just as NASA is prepped to launch a final Hubble servicing mission (Atlantis is already on the launch pad) :-). The mission designers are giving us at least another 5 years out of the nearly 20 year old hardware. That puts us right on track to start analyzing results from Hubble’s successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, which is scheduled for a 2013 launch. This is a great time to be an astronomer!