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.

2003 July 19
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

NGC 3621: Far Beyond the Local Group
Credit: F. Bresolin, R.-P. Kudritzki, R. Mendez (Institute for Astronomy, Univ. Hawaii)

Explanation: Far beyond the local group of galaxies lies NGC 3621, some 22 million light-years away. Found in the serpentine southern constellation Hydra, the loose spiral arms of this gorgeous island universe are loaded with luminous young star clusters and dark dust lanes. Still, for earthbound astronomers NGC 3621 is not just another pretty face-on spiral galaxy. Some of its brighter stars have been used as standard candles to establish important estimates of extragalactic distances and the scale of the Universe. This color picture was constructed from astronomical image data recorded with the Very Large Telescope Antu, at Paranal Observatory in Chile. At the original resolution, individual, hot supergiant stars can be identified and studied across NGC 3621.

Tomorrow's picture: deep space

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