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Hubble Space Telescope spies a distant, dying galaxy

Staff writers

November 12, 2012 — The Hubble Space Telescope's latest shot is of a far-off galaxy transitioning into old age.

The Hubble Space Telescope is more than two decades old, and it continues to beam astonishing images back to earth.

Late last week, the orbiting telescope sent back some of the sharpest images of a dying galaxy, around 140 million light-years away.

Called a "lenticular" galaxy because of its shape, NGC 5010, located in the constellation Virgo, is made up mostly of older, red stars in the final stage of their lives.

The abundance of those elderly, red stars are what give NGC 5010 its reddish hue, which NASA researchers describe as "rather like an explosion from a Hollywood movie."

They say there are very few younger, bluer stars left in this galaxy, which  is slowly taking on a more elliptical shape, rather than the spiral form of a younger galaxy.

NASA says most of the gaseous fuel used to form new stars is almost depleted, and as the existing stars continue to age, NGC 5010 will become even more "red and dead."

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