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.

2009 February 9
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

Anemic Galaxy NGC 4921 at the Edge
Credit: NASA, ESA, K. Cook (LLNL)

Explanation: How far away is spiral galaxy NGC 4921? Although presently estimated to be about 320 million light years distant, a more precise determination could be coupled with its known recession speed to help humanity better calibrate the expansion rate of the entire visible universe. Toward this goal, this image was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in order to help identify key stellar distance markers known as Cepheid variable stars. Since NGC 4921 is a member of the Coma Cluster of Galaxies, refining its distance would also allow a better distance determination to one of the largest nearby clusters in the local universe. The magnificent spiral NGC 4921 has been informally dubbed anemic because of its low rate of star formation and low surface brightness. The remarkably sharp image was made with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys, currently in need of repair. Visible in the image are, from the center, a bright nucleus, a bright central bar, a prominent ring of dark dust, blue clusters of recently formed stars, several smaller companion galaxies, unrelated galaxies in the far distant universe, and unrelated stars in our Milky Way Galaxy.

Tomorrow's picture: Orion's Belt

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