Image: NGC 5775
ESA / NASA
This Hubble Space Telescope image shows the edge-on profile of the slender spiral galaxy NGC 5775, which is surrounded by a halo of gas that astronomers suspect is kicked up by star explosions like a galaxy-size fountain.
updated 5/22/2011 4:37:35 PM ET 2011-05-22T20:37:35

A new photo from the Hubble Space Telescope has revealed what scientists have called a galactic "fountain of youth," one that would turn the fictional pirate captain Jack Sparrow of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films green with envy.

Journeying to the mythic Fountain of Youth is Sparrow's goal in Disney's latest installment in the adventure film franchise, "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides." But the space fountain spotted by Hubble is no myth. [See Hubble's photo of a galaxy fountain]

The new Hubble image shows the galaxy NGC 5775, which is located about 85 million light-years from Earth in a group of galaxies called the Virgo Cluster. NGC 5775 is a spiral galaxy that is tilted away from Earth in such a way that only its edge is visible. 

This edge-on position of the galaxy has allowed astronomers to spot a vast halo of hot gas around  NGC 5775, but how the material actually got there is unclear, researchers said.

"Some astronomers think that hot gas from the disc is driven into the halo by supernova explosions, which is then returned to the disc as it cools — like a massive galactic fountain," according to a Hubble telescope image description. Because of the phenomenon, Hubble researchers dubbed it a "galactic fountain of youth" when they released the image this month. [Spectacular Hubble Telescope Photos]

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There is also another oddity about the galaxy NGC 5775 that has attracted attention from astronomers: a bridge of hydrogen gas linking the galaxy with a galactic neighbor called NGC 5774. [Most Amazing Hubble Discoveries]

The two spiral galaxies are on a collision course and are in the early stages of merging, according to Hubble scientists. However, neither object has yet sprouted a tidal tail of gas and stars — created by intense gravitational disruptions — that typically precedes galaxy mergers.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a joint project by NASA and the European Space Agency.

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Photos: Hubble’s new vision

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  1. This image, released April 22, captures the chaotic activity atop a three light-year tall pillar of gas and dust that is being eaten away by the brilliant light from nearby bright stars. The turbulent cosmic pinnacle lies within a tempestuous stellar nursery called the Carina Nebula, located 7,500 light-years away in the southern constellation Carina. The image celebrates the 20th anniversary of Hubble's launch and deployment into an orbit around Earth. (NASA via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Butterfly in space

    A beautiful view of a star in its death throes is featured in a gallery of images sent back by the Hubble Space Telescope after its final shuttle servicing mission in May 2009. The planetary nebula NGC 6302, better known as the Butterfly Nebula or the Bug Nebula, is about 3,800 light-years away in the constellation Scorpius. The features that look like dainty butterfly wings are actually roiling cauldrons of gas heated to more than 36,000 degrees Fahrenheit, blasted away from a dying star bigger than the sun. This picture was taken by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3. (NASA / ESA / Hubble SM4 ERO) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Clash of galaxies

    A clash involving members of the famous galaxy group known as Stephan's Quintet reveals an assortment of stars across a wide color range, from young, blue stars to aging, red stars. The new image of the grouping was taken by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3. It's a bit of a misnomer to call this group a "quintet." Studies have shown that the galaxy NGC 7320, at upper left, is actually in the foreground, about seven times closer to Earth than the rest of the group. (NASA / ESA / Hubble SM4 ERO) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Pillar of creation

    Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 took this picture of a "pillar of creation" in the Carina Nebula, about 7,500 light-years away in the constellation Carina. Clouds of gas and dust conceal the cradles of newborn stars. (NASA / ESA / Hubble SM4 ERO) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Full of stars

    Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 captured this panoramic view of a colorful assortment of 100,000 stars residing in the crowded core of the globular cluster Omega Centauri. The full cluster, which lies about 16,000 light-years from Earth, boasts nearly 10 million stars. The stars in Omega Centauri are between 10 billion and 12 billion years old. (NASA / ESA / Hubble SM4 ERO) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Mist of stars

    An earlier image from Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys shows the globular cluster Omega Centauri and provides the context for the space telescope's new image of the same cluster. The blue-lined box indicates the area covered by the newly released image from Wide Field Camera 3: about 6.3 light-years or 1.4 arcminutes wide. (NASA / ESA / Hubble SM4 ERO) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Great Black Spot

    A dark smudge serves as the telltale sign of a cosmic collision in this picture of Jupiter, taken on July 23 by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3. Scientists believe the smudge was caused by debris from a comet or asteroid that plunged into Jupiter's atmosphere and disintegrated. (NASA / ESA / Hubble SM4 ERO) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. It's a wonderful whirl

    The barred spiral galaxy NGC 6217, which lies 6 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major, shines bright in the first image of a celestial object taken with Hubble's newly repaired Advanced Camera for Surveys. The camera was restored to operation in May during the shuttle Atlantis' final Hubble servicing mission. This image was assembled from data acquired on June 13 and July 8 during testing and calibration of the camera. (NASA / ESA / Hubble SM4 ERO) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Leftovers from a supernova

    The supernova remnant N132D resides in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small companion galaxy of the Milky Way about 170,000 light-years away. A visible-light image of N132D, taken in August with Hubble's new Wide Field Camera 3, reveals a crescent-shaped cloud of pink emission from hydrogen gas and soft purple wisps of glowing oxygen. Scientists probed these wisps with Hubble's Cosmic Origins Spectrograph and discovered pristine gas ejected by the supernova that had not yet mixed with surrounding gas. (NASA / ESA / Hubble SM4 ERO) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. NASA via AP
    Above: Slideshow (9) Hubble’s new vision
  2. Image:
    Y. Beletsky / ESO
    Slideshow (12) Month in Space: January 2014

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