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.

2004 April 10
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Facing NGC 6946
Credit & Copyright: Robert Gendler

Explanation: From our vantage point in the Milky Way Galaxy, we see NGC 6946 face-on. The big beautiful spiral galaxy is located just 10 million light-years away, behind a veil of foreground stars in the high and far-off constellation of Cepheus. Looking from the bright core outward along the loose, fragmented spiral arms, the galaxy's colors show a striking change from the yellowish light of old stars in the galaxy's center to young blue star clusters and reddish star forming regions. NGC 6946 is also bright in infrared light and rich in gas and dust, exhibiting a high star birth and death rate. In fact, during the 20th century, at least six supernovae, the death explosions of massive stars, were discovered in NGC 6946. In this sharp composite color digital image, a small barred structure is just visible at the gorgeous galaxy's core.

Tomorrow's picture: Journey to the Center of the Galaxy

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