The barred spiral galaxy UGC 678 takes center stage in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The spectacular galaxy lies around 260 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Pisces and is almost face on, allowing its lazily winding spiral arms to stretch across this image. In the foreground, a smaller edge-on galaxy seems to bisect the upper portion of UGC 678.
Barred spiral galaxies have a bar-shaped structure of stars that extends from opposite sides of the galaxy’s central bulge. Bars form in spiral galaxies when the orbits of stars near the galaxy’s heart become unstable and stretched out. As their orbits lengthen, they create a bar. The bar grows as their gravity captures more and more nearby stars. UGC 678’s bar is faint. It is visible as a diagonal group of stars that stretches from the lower left (7 o’clock) to the upper right (1 o’clock) of the galaxy’s core.
Text credit: European Space Agency (ESA)