Messier 74 (M74) is a large spiral galaxy in the Pisces equatorial constellation. Also known as NGC 628 and Phantom Galaxy, the galaxy is located about 32 million light-years away from Earth.
M74 has two clearly defined spiral arms. Recently, NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shared an image of the galaxy, showing the arms of the galaxy are studded with rosy pink regions. These regions are fresh star formation regions in the universe.
Plus, it shows beautiful reddish blooms that spread throughout the galaxy. They are huge clouds of hydrogen gas. The clouds are glowing because of the ultraviolet radiation from hot, young stars embedded within them. Astronomers dub these regions H II regions, indicating the location of recent star formation. These regions are a point of a target for both space- and ground-based telescopes. Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys, which collected the data in this image, even has a filter designed to pick out only this specific red wavelength of light!
The data in this image is derived from a series of investigations- on the evolution of nearby spiral galaxies like M74- to learn more about the history of star formation in these spirals. Astronomers did this by looking at star clusters to date- the various components of spiral galaxies, which allowed them to comprehend how the galaxies came to be through time. Additionally, they looked at how dust is distributed throughout spiral galaxies; in this image, dust can be seen as dark threads running around M74’s spiral arms.
Aside from their quest to understand the history of spiral galaxies, astronomers also observed M74 to complement observations from other telescopes. Combining observations of the same object from different telescopes across the electromagnetic spectrum gives astronomers far more insight than observations from a single telescope. Hubble’s observations also paved the way for future instruments; M74 was one of the first targets of the powerful new NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope.