Asteroid Hides Behind Sparkling Spiral Galaxy in This Dazzling Telescope View

In May 2018, the telescope turned its sights to the spiral galaxy NGC 3981, which lies 65 million light-years from Earth, in the constellation Crater.

The European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope in Chile captured this view of the spiral galaxy NGC 3981 in May 2018. The image was taken using the ESO's FORS2 instrument, as part of the Cosmic Gems program, which photographs the southern skies when conditions aren't good for scientific observations. An asteroid's trail can also be seen near the top, slightly right of center. (Image credit: ESO)

The image shows off the galaxy's spiral arms of material and dense disk of hot, young stars, according to a statement from ESO. Because of the galaxy's angle, you can also see its bright center, which is highly energetic and hosts a supermassive black hole. The arms may have been stretched outward by a run-in with another galaxy at some point, ESO officials said. [Amazing Space Views of ESO's Very Large Telescope (Photos)]

When focusing on science, the VLT has turned its mammoth eye toward worlds circling distant stars, watching exoplanets form and measuring their atmospheres, as well as surveying gas and dust across the universe and tracking galactic evolution.

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