NGC 5101 and friends

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This sharp telescopic field of view holds two bright galaxies. Barred spiral NGC 5101 (top right) and nearly edge-on system NGC 5078 are separated on the sky by about 0.5 degrees or about the apparent width of a full moon. Found within the boundaries of the serpentine constellation Hydra, both are estimated to be around 90 million light-years away and similar in size to our own large Milky Way galaxy. In fact, if they both lie at the same distance their projected separation would be only 800,000 light-years or so. That’s easily less than half the distance between the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy. NGC 5078 is interacting with a smaller companion galaxy, cataloged as IC 879, seen just below and left of the larger galaxy’s bright core. Even more distant background galaxies are scattered around the colorful field. Some are even visible right through the face-on disk of NGC 5101. But the prominent spiky stars are in the foreground, well within our own Milky Way.

Image credit & Copyright: Martin Pugh

Centaurus A

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Only 11 million light-years away, Centaurus A is the closest active galaxy to planet Earth. Spanning over 60,000 light-years, the peculiar elliptical galaxy, also known as NGC 5128, is featured in this sharp color image. Centaurus A is apparently the result of a collision of two otherwise normal galaxies resulting in a fantastic jumble of star clusters and imposing dark dust lanes. Near the galaxy’s center, left over cosmic debris is steadily being consumed by a central black hole with a billion times the mass of the Sun. As in other active galaxies, that process likely generates the radio, X-ray, and gamma-ray energy radiated by Centaurus A.

Credit: Tim Carruthers

NGC 6520

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NGC 6520 is an open star cluster located about 5,500 light years away towards the constellation Sagittarius. It is about 10 light years across. The bright blue stars are only a few million years old, much younger than our Sun.

Blocking the light of NGC 6520 is Barnard 86, an absorption nebula and molecular cloud. It contains is filled with thick dust that obscures the star cluster. Surrounding the cluster and nebula in this image is part of the dense starscape of our own Milky Way.

Image and information from NASA.

Ghost of the Cepheus

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Ghost of the Cepheus Flare-shapes in the royal constellation Cepheus are cosmic dust clouds, faintly visible in dimly reflected starlight.They lurk at the edge of the Cepheus Flare molecular cloud complex some 1,200 light-years away. Over 2 light-years across the ghostly nebula and relatively isolated Bok globule, also known as vdB 141 or Sh2-136, is near the center of the field. The core of the dark cloud on the right is collapsing (likely a binary star system in the early stages of formation.)

The California Nebula

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The California Nebula (NGC 1499) is a large emission nebula and star-forming cloud of around 100 light-years long, located some 1,000-1,500 light-years away in the Orion spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy (where our Solar System is also located) in the constellation of Perseus, what makes it one of the nearest H II regions to Earth. It is so named because it appears to resemble the outline of the US State of California. It has a very low surface brightness and it’s very difficult to observe visually.