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.

December 6, 1999
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M83: The Southern Pinwheel Galaxy from VLT
Credit: FORS Team, 8.2-meter VLT, ESO

Explanation: M83 is one of the closest and brightest spiral galaxies on the sky. Visible with binoculars in the constellation of Hydra, majestic spiral arms have prompted its nickname as the Southern Pinwheel. Although discovered 250 years ago, only in this century was it appreciated that M83 was not a gas cloud but a barred spiral galaxy much like our own Milky Way Galaxy. M83, pictured above in a recently released photograph from a Very Large Telescope, is a prominent member of a group of galaxies that includes Centaurus A and NGC 5253, all of which lie about 15 million light years distant. To date, six supernova explosions have been recorded in M83. An unusual double circumnuclear ring has recently been discovered at the center of M83 and is still being investigated.

Tomorrow's picture: Cat's Paw

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