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 September 2
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Dusty Spiral M66
Credit: M. Neeser (Univ.-Sternwarte Munchen), P. Barthel (Kapteyn Astron. Institute), H. Heyer, H. Boffin (ESO), ESO

Explanation: When morning twilight came to the Paranal Observatory in Chile, astronomers Mark Neeser and Peter Barthel interrupted their search for faint quasars, billions of light-years away. And just for a moment, they used Very Large Telescopes at the European Southern Observatory to appreciate the beauty of the nearby Universe. One result was this stunning view of beautiful spiral galaxy M66, a mere 35 million light-years away. About 100 thousand light-years across with striking dust lanes and bright star clusters along sweeping spiral arms, M66 is well known to astronomers as a member of the Leo Triplet of galaxies. Gravitational interactions with its neighborhood galaxies have likely influenced the shape of dusty spiral M66.

Tomorrow's picture: True Pluto

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