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.

2015 February 5
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M104: The Sombrero Galaxy
Image Data: NASA, ESO , NAOJ, Giovanni Paglioli - Processing: R. Colombari

Explanation: The striking spiral galaxy M104 is famous for its nearly edge-on profile featuring a broad ring of obscuring dust lanes. Seen in silhouette against an extensive bulge of stars, the swath of cosmic dust lends a broad brimmed hat-like appearance to the galaxy suggesting the more popular moniker, The Sombrero Galaxy. Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based Subaru data have been reprocessed with amateur color image data to create this sharp view of the well-known galaxy. The processing results in a natural color appearance and preserves details often lost in overwhelming glare of M104's bright central bulge when viewed with smaller ground-based instruments. Also known as NGC 4594, the Sombrero galaxy can be seen across the spectrum and is thought to host a central supermassive black hole. About 50,000 light-years across and 28 million light-years away, M104 is one of the largest galaxies at the southern edge of the Virgo Galaxy Cluster.

Tomorrow's picture: all the marbles

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
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