The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope sees galaxies of all shapes, sizes, luminosities and orientations in the cosmos. Sometimes, the telescope gazes at a galaxy oriented sideways — as shown here. The spiral galaxy featured in this Hubble image is called NGC 3717, and it is located about 80 million light-years away in the constellation of Hydra (the Sea Serpent).
Seeing a spiral almost in profile, as Hubble has here, can provide a vivid sense of its three-dimensional shape. Through most of their expanse, spiral galaxies are shaped like a thin pancake. At their cores, though, they have bright, spherical, star-filled bulges that extend above and below this disk, giving these galaxies a shape somewhat like that of a flying saucer when they are seen edge-on.
NGC 3717 is not captured perfectly edge-on in this image; the nearer part of the galaxy is tilted ever so slightly down, and the far side tilted up. This angle affords a view across the disk and the central bulge (of which only one side is visible).
Image: ESA/Hubble & NASA, D. Rosario
NGC 3717 is a spiral galaxy located in the constellation of Hydra at an approximate distance of 81.43 million light-years. NGC 3717 was discovered in 1834 by Sir John Herschel.
Hydra is the largest of the 88 modern constellations, measuring 1303 square degrees, and also the longest at over 100 degrees. Its southern end abuts Libra and Centaurus and its northern end borders Cancer. It was included among the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd-century astronomer Ptolemy. It is commonly represented as a water snake. It is located in the southern hemisphere.