Our neighbor Andromeda Galaxy (also known as M31), 2.5 million light-years away and spanning some 260,000 light-years. It took 11 different image fields from the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) satellite’s telescope to produce this gorgeous portrait of the spiral galaxy in ultraviolet light. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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Andromeda collided with its smaller neighboring elliptical galaxy M32 more than 200 million years ago.
Image credit: Wikimedia
The Galaxy Evolution Explorer spent about nine years as a NASA mission, probing the sky with its sharp ultraviolet eyes and cataloguing hundreds of millions of galaxies spanning 10 billion years of cosmic time.
“NASA sees this as an opportunity to allow the public to continue reaping the benefits from this space asset that NASA developed using federal funding,” said Paul Hertz, NASA’s Astrophysics Division director at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “This is an excellent example of a public/private partnership that will help further astronomy in the United States.”
“This mission was full of surprises, and now more surprises are sure to come,” said Chris Martin, who will remain the mission’s principal investigator at Caltech. “It already has scanned a large fraction of the sky, improving our understanding of how galaxies grow and evolve. The astronomy community will continue those studies, in addition to spending more time on stars closer to home in our own galaxy.”
The spacecraft was placed in standby mode on Feb. 7 of this year. Soon, Caltech will begin to manage and operate the satellite, working with several international research groups to continue ultraviolet studies of the universe. Projects include cataloguing more galaxies across the entire sky; watching how stars and galaxies change over time; and making deep observations of the stars being surveyed for orbiting planets by NASA’s Kepler mission. Data will continue to be made available to the public.