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.

2007 June 15
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Messier 96
Credit & Copyright: Adam Block (Caelum Observatory), Acknowledgement: R. Jay GaBany

Explanation: Dust lanes seem to swirl around the core of Messier 96 in this colorful, detailed portrait of the beautiful island universe. Of course M96 is a spiral galaxy, and counting the faint arms extending beyond the brighter central region it spans 100 thousand light-years or so, about the size of our own Milky Way. M96 is known to be 38 million light-years distant, a dominant member of the Leo I galaxy group. Background galaxies and smaller Leo I group members can be found by examining the picture, but accomplished astro-imager Adam Block notes he is most intrigued by the edge-on spiral galaxy that apparently lies behind the outer spiral arm near the 10 o'clock position. The edge-on spiral appears to be about 1/5 the size of M96. If the spiral is similar in actual size to M96, then it lies about 5 times farther away.

Tomorrow's picture: Lunar Orbiter picture of the day

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