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.

2006 May 6
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Three Galaxies in Draco
Credit: Stefan Heutz, Wolfgang Ries, Cord Scholz

Explanation: This intriguing trio of galaxies is sometimes called the NGC 5985/Draco Group and so (quite reasonably) is located in the northern constellation Draco. From left to right are face-on spiral NGC 5985, elliptical galaxy NGC 5982, and edge-on spiral NGC 5981 -- all within this single telescopic field of view spanning a little more than half the width of the full moon. While this grouping is far too small to be a galaxy cluster and has not been cataloged as a compact group, these galaxies all do lie roughly 100 million light-years from planet Earth. On close examination with spectrographs, the bright core of the striking face-on spiral NGC 5985 shows prominent emission in specific wavelengths of light, prompting astronomers to classify it as a Seyfert, a type of active galaxy. Not as well known as other tight groupings of galaxies, the contrast in visual appearance makes this triplet an attractive subject for astrophotographers. This impressively deep exposure of region also reveals faint and even more distant background galaxies.

Tomorrow's picture: cosmic cocoon

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