Hubble captures a smeared fingerprint of an “anemic” galaxy

Imaged face-on by Hubble, the distant galaxy NGC 4689 looks a bit blurry, even though it was captured in high resolution.
By | Published: February 25, 2020 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
ESA/Hubble & NASA
Looking at this face-on view of the galaxy NGC 4689, as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope, you can barely tell it’s a spiral galaxy. Instead, thanks to its relatively dim spiral arms, NGC 4689 looks more like a smeared cosmic fingerprint — especially when compared to some of Hubble’s other high-contrast hits.

This mottled appearance is because NGC 4689 is an “anemic galaxy,” which is a galaxy that’s deficient in neutral hydrogen, an element crucial for creating new stars. With fewer stars, the spiral arms of NGC 4689 — located some 50 million light-years from Earth — are less bright than the arms of many other spiral galaxies.

This foggy view makes it hard to define the edges of each of the galaxy’s blended arms, creating the smudged illusion of NGC 4689. However, as noted in a press release, the galaxy undoubtedly still has an “otherworldly charm.”