In this view of the center of the magnificent barred spiral galaxy NGC 1512, the Hubble telescope reveals a stunning 2,400 light-year-wide circle of infant star clusters. Astronomers generally believe that the giant bar, which is too faint to be seen in this image, funnels the gas to the inner ring, where massive stars are formed within numerous star clusters. Located 30 million light-years away, NGC 1512 is a neighbor of our Milky Way galaxy.
It is a common type of spiral galaxy in which the pinwheel-like arms arise from each end of a bright central bar of gas and stars rather than from the center as in normal spirals. Although astronomers aren't certain how a bar forms, they believe it may be created by instabilities in a galaxy's disk of gas and stars, perhaps caused by an interaction with another galaxy. In Hubble's close-up view of the core of NGC 1512, the bar is too faint to see.
Credit: NASA, ESA, and D. Maoz (Tel-Aviv University and Columbia University)