Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2000 May 11
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download 
 the highest resolution version available.

NGC 3314: When Galaxies Overlap
Credit: W. Keel and R. White, (U. Alabama, Tuscaloosa), Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/ AURA), NASA

Explanation: Can this be a spiral galaxy? In fact, NGC 3314 consists of two large spiral galaxies which just happen to almost exactly line-up. The foreground spiral is viewed nearly face-on, its pinwheel shape defined by young bright star clusters. But against the glow of the background galaxy, dark swirling lanes of interstellar dust are also seen to echo the face-on spiral's structure. The dust lanes are surprisingly pervasive, and this remarkable pair of overlapping galaxies is one of a small number of systems in which absorption of visible light can be used to directly explore the distribution of dust in distant spirals. NGC 3314 is about 140 million light-years away in the southern constellation of Hydra. Just released, this color composite was constructed from Hubble Space Telescope images made in 1999 and 2000.

Tomorrow's picture: X-Ray Ring Around SN1987a

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
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& Michigan Tech. U.