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.

2010 May 17
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
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Panorama of the Whale Galaxy
Credit: Data - Hubble Legacy Archive, ESA, NASA Processing - Nikolaus Sulzenauer

Explanation: The see the full length of this blue whale, scroll right. NGC 4631 is a big beautiful spiral galaxy seen edge-on at only about 30 million light-years away. This galaxy's slightly distorted wedge shape led to its popular moniker of the Whale galaxy. The Whale's dark interstellar dust clouds and young bright blue star clusters highlight this panoramic color image. The band of NGC 4631 not only appears similar to band of our own Milky Way Galaxy, but its size is truly similar to our Milky Way as well. The galaxy is also known to have spouted a halo of hot gas glowing in x-rays. The Whale galaxy spans about 140,000 light years and can be seen with a small telescope toward the constellation of the Hunting Dogs (Canes Venatici).

Tomorrow's picture: runaway sky spider

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