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.

September 22, 1998
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download 
 the highest resolution version available.

M61: Virgo Spiral Galaxy
Credit: Z. Frei (Eotvos) & J. Gunn (Princeton), Palomar Obs.
Copyright: Princeton University Press

Explanation: M61 is a barred spiral galaxy located in the nearby Virgo Cluster of Galaxies. Visible in M61 are a host of features common to spiral galaxies: bright spiral arms, a central bar, dust lanes, and bright knots of stars. M61, also known as NGC 4303, in similar to our own Milky Way Galaxy. M61 was discovered by telescope in 1779 twice on the same day, but one observer initially mistook the galaxy for a comet. Light from M61 takes about 60 million years to reach us. Recent observations of M61 have detected unpredicted high velocity gas moving in its halo.

Tomorrow's picture: An Autumn Equinox

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
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