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.

November 3, 1998
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Sextans A: A Seemingly Square Galaxy
Credit: S. D. Van Dyk (IPAC /Caltech) et al., KPNO 2.1-m Telescope, NOAO

Explanation: What's bothering local galaxy Sextans A? A small dwarf irregular galaxy spanning 5 thousand light years across, Sextans A is located only 5 million light-years away. Named for its home constellation of Sextans, the "diamond in the rough" structure relates to an ancient unknown event. 100 million years ago, something mysterious started a new wave of star formation in Sextans A's center. Massive short-lived stars exploded in supernovae that caused more star formation and yet more supernovae, ultimately resulting in an expanding shell. Today, young blue stars highlight areas and shell edges high in current star formation, a shell that from our perspective appears roughly square. In the above picture, a bright orange star in our own Milky Way Galaxy appears superposed in the foreground.

Tomorrow's picture: Cosmology Solved?

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
&: Michigan Tech. U.