The Hubble Space Telescope turns 32 on April 24th, and the team behind the telescope is marking the occasion with the release of a galactic family picture.

Hickson Compact Group 40
The Hubble Space Telescope is celebrating its 32nd birthday with a stunning look at an unusual close-knit collection of five galaxies, called the Hickson Compact Group 40. This snapshot reflects a special moment in their lifetimes as they fall together before they merge.

Three spiral galaxies, an elliptical, and a lenticular feature in this Hubble Space Telescope image, all packed into a volume less than 200,000 light-years across, or twice the diameter of the Milky Way’s disk. Their light traveled 300 million light-years before it reached Hubble’s cameras.

At first glance, the five stunning galaxies of Hickson Compact Group 40 look disconnected, placed next to each other in space by chance superposition. But a closer look reveals connections between them, bridges made of gas and stars.

The galaxies make up one of the most crowded compact galaxy groups known, and it’s getting more crowded still. They’re falling inexorably toward each other — in about 1 billion years, there’ll be nothing to see here except for a giant elliptical fuzzball of stars.

Such compact groups might have been more common earlier in the universe’s timeline. Galactic interactions fueled the supermassive black holes that lurk in most galaxy centers and, indeed, most of the galaxies here show evidence of such a central black hole.

The image, taken late last year, was released recently in celebration of the Hubble Space Telescope’s 32nd year of operations. Hubble has far outlived its expected lifetime, having captured 1.5 million images of about 50,000 celestial objects along the way so far. HCG 40 is one more under its belt.


Image of Rod


April 24, 2022 at 9:44 am

Better images than my 10-inch Newtonian telescope shows for various galaxies 🙂 I used the cosmology calculator and 300 million light years distance, z ~ 0.022 for HCG 40.

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Tom Hoffelder

April 25, 2022 at 12:56 pm

Hubble pix are cool, but it is way cooler to see photons in the eyepiece. To get an idea of the possibility of doing so with my C14, I check photos at This is what is shows for Hickson 40:

I'm excited; it won't be that bright but there is a chance I will be able to see four of them with averted vision! Thank you Monica for posting!

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Steve Rusnak

April 29, 2022 at 5:45 pm

Hi Tom, that would be cool to see. One question, I never got an answer. Were you once a member of the Treasure Coast Astronomical Society?

Steve Rusnak

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Monica Young

April 25, 2022 at 1:51 pm

Hubble images reveal things we could never see from our backyards, but what we see for ourselves can carry more weight as it's part of our personal experience. Both worthy endeavors!

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