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 July 17
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 the highest resolution version available.

Starburst Galaxy M94
Credit & Copyright: Marcin Paciorek

Explanation: Beautiful island universe M94 lies a mere 15 million light-years distant in the northern constellation of the hunting dogs, Canes Venatici. A popular target for earth-based astronomers, the face-on spiral galaxy is about 30,000 light-years across. Its remarkable features include prominent dust lanes, a bright, point-like nucleus, and a bright, bluish ring dominated by the light of young, massive stars. The massive stars in the ring are all likely less than 10 million years old, indicating the galaxy experienced a well-defined era of rapid star formation. As a result, while the small, bright nucleus is typical of the Seyfert class of active galaxies, M94 is also known as a starburst galaxy. Because M94 is relatively nearby, astronomers can explore in detail reasons for the galaxy's burst of star formation.

Tomorrow's picture: light-weekend

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