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.

2011 July 15
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NGC 3314: When Galaxies Overlap
Credit: Hubble Legacy Archive, ESA, NASA; Processing - Martin Pugh

Explanation: NGC 3314 is actually two large spiral galaxies which just happen to almost exactly line up. The foreground spiral is viewed nearly face-on, its pinwheel shape defined by young bright star clusters. But against the glow of the background galaxy, dark swirling lanes of interstellar dust appear to dominate the face-on spiral's structure. The dust lanes are surprisingly pervasive, and this remarkable pair of overlapping galaxies is one of a small number of systems in which absorption of light from beyond a galaxy's own stars can be used to directly explore its distribution of dust. NGC 3314 is about 140 million light-years (background galaxy) and 117 million light-years (foreground galaxy) away in the multi-headed constellation Hydra. The background galaxy would span nearly 70,000 light-years at its estimated distance. A synthetic third channel was created to construct this dramatic new composite of the overlapping galaxies from two color image data in the Hubble Legacy Archive.

View this page (with external links) online at
http://apod.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ap110715.html.

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