Monday, December 05, 2005

A pretty picture

Last night was a gorgeous night on Kitt Peak. In the corner of one of the pictures we took at the end of the night, we spotted this galaxy, much bigger and brighter than the "faint fuzzies" we were looking at. This galaxy is NGC 3079, a spiral galaxy in the constellation Ursa Major (the "Big Dipper"). It is located about 50 million light-years away; the galaxies I am looking at for my work are about 3 billion light-years away.

NGC 3079 has also been looked at by the Hubble Space Telescope, as seen in this picture. Why is the Hubble picture much more colorful than mine? Two major reasons -- Hubble has graphics artists to help them bring out the colors, while yours truly has limited artistic ability, and the Hubble Telescope took pictures in more colors than I did (I stuck to red, green and blue).

This galaxy is also known as a "starburst" galaxy. Lots of stars are being formed very quickly, mostly hidden from view by thick clouds of dust. This galaxy also has a large black hole at its center that is gobbling down lots of the gas and dust in the galaxy.

No comments:

Post a Comment