An unusual large galaxy with a shape bordering between spiral and elliptical has been spotted by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
NGC 7049 sits in the southern constellation Indus, and is the brightest of a cluster of galaxies, a so-called Brightest Cluster Galaxy (BCG). Typical BCGs are some of the oldest and most massive galaxies, which provide excellent opportunities for astronomers to study the elusive globular clusters lurking within.
The halo, a ghostly region of diffuse light surrounding the galaxy, is composed of myriads of individual stars and provides a luminous background to the swirling ring of dust lanes surrounding NGC 7049's core.
Small faint points of light sprinkled throughout the galaxy represent globular clusters, which are gravitational groupings of several hundreds of thousands of stars. They contain some of the first stars to be produced in a galaxy.
NGC 7049 has far fewer such clusters than other similar giant galaxies in very big, rich groups. This indicates to astronomers how the surrounding environment influenced the formation of galaxy halos in the early universe.
Hubble captured this image using its Advanced Camera for Surveys, which is primed to hunt galaxies and galaxy clusters in the remote and ancient universe. The space telescope recently imaged a group of colliding galaxies chosen in an online voting contest.