Space photo of the week: Swirling 'Spanish Dancer Galaxy' stares down NASA's Hubble

NGC 1566, a spiral galaxy, as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope.
NGC 1566, a spiral galaxy, as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. (Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, C. Kilpatrick)

What it is: spiral galaxy NGC 1566. 

When it was taken: Nov. 3, 2023. 

Where it is: 60 million light-years away in the constellation Dorado. 

Why it's so special: NGC 1566 is a spiral galaxy whose twirling arms of stars inspired its informal nickname: the "Spanish Dancer." 

The Dancer is one of the most visually spectacular galaxies we can see, largely because of its orientation. While some galaxies are seen side-on from Earth — meaning we only see the thinnest part of the galaxy — NGC 1566 is seen face-on, making its bulge and spiral arms clearly visible.

This image of NGC 1566 from the Hubble Space Telescope shows two spiral arms of stars and lanes of dark dust swirling from a glowing galactic core, where the dust appears to split into fibers. Bright pink regions sparkle along the spiral arms where new stars are forming.

Around 60% of galaxies are spirals like NGC 1566, including our Milky Way. Spiral galaxies are home to stars that are, on average, much younger than those in other galaxies. According to NASA, spiral galaxies may evolve into elliptical galaxies, which are less structured and where stars are older — possibly after colliding or merging with other spiral galaxies.

The image of NGC 1566, taken using Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 — one of its two main cameras — can be downloaded in up to 16-megapixel quality. There is also an online zoomable version.

Hubble launched in 1990 and has been orbiting Earth for 33 years. It entered safe mode in late November after suffering problems with one of its three gyroscopes, which help it turn and lock on to new targets. However, it resumed science operations on Dec. 8, according to NASA.

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Jamie Carter is a freelance journalist and regular Live Science contributor based in Cardiff, U.K. He is the author of A Stargazing Program For Beginners and lectures on astronomy and the natural world. Jamie regularly writes for,, Forbes Science, BBC Wildlife magazine and Scientific American, and many others. He edits