Astronomy Photo of the Day: 4/27/13 – Messier 77

Image Credit: Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona

Image Credit: Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona

This lovely galaxy is one of the best examples of an active galaxy, with the bright galactic core and the large halo of interstellar materials.

The galaxy, known as Messier 77 (or NGC 1068), is a spiral galaxy located some 60 million light-years from Earth (in the Cetus constellation). We’re in a great position to study this galaxy, as its seen face-on from our perspective (this lets us see the various layers of the galaxy, rather than us merely being able to study the outermost edge). It’s relative position from Earth also allows astronomers to probe the mystery of supermassive black holes, which are almost always found lurking at the galactic center of large galaxies.

This particular image of Messier 77 is a composite, stitched together using images taken of the galaxy at multiple wavelengths. (including optical data, infrared, ultraviolet, x-ray and radio wavelengths) This allows us to see portions of the region that would not otherwise be discernible at one individual wavelength.

See a larger image here.


  • NGC 1073 NGC 1073 This is the barred spiral galaxy NGC 1073. It is 55-million light-years from Earth and is located in the constellation Cetus. It is a barred spiral galaxy because of the prominent bar of stars helping to compose the galactic center; the Milky Way is also thought to have a moderately sized central bar. Because of this, when scientists study galaxies such as NGC 1073, they are also increasing their understanding of our home in the cosmos. (Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Space Telescope)
  • Messier 74 (NGC 628) Messier 74 (NGC 628) This brilliant face-on galaxy is none other than messier 74 (also known by its much duller name: NGC 628). Located within the constellation of Pisces, this galaxy is about 32-million light-years from Earth, which puts it in our general area – universally speaking. About 100-billion stars call M74 home; making M74 the brightest and largest member of its galactic group (called the M74 Group). (Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble)
  • NGC 1084 NGC 1084 This galaxy, NGC 1084, is a picture of perfection. This newly-released remix not only features a close-up look at the galaxy’s monstrous central core, which is home to a supermassive black hole that could likely consume our entire solar system, but we can also see another feature that sets this galaxy apart from our own: its distinct lack of a central bar. (Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and S. Smartt (Queen’s University Belfast), Acknowledgement: Brian Campbell)
  • ESO 510-G13 ESO 510-G13 This is the spiral galaxy ESO 510-G13. This galaxy is embedded within the constellation Hydra and is located some 150-million light-years from Earth. (Credit: NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team [STScI/AURA])
  • NGC 4314 NGC 4314 This little lovely image focuses on NGC 4314 - a barred spiral galaxy (similar to ours) that is located more than 40 million light-years from Earth in the constellation of Coma Berenices. The most notable thing about this galaxy is its central region - the area in which we call a circumnuclear starburst ring. This stellar ring extends about 1,000 light-years in radius and kind of looks like a spiral galaxy wrapped in another spiral galaxy. (Our central region is very inactive comparably) (Image Credit: G. Fritz Benedict, Andrew Howell, Inger Jorgensen, David Chapell (University of Texas), Jeffery Kenney (Yale University), and Beverly J. Smith (CASA, University of Colorado), and NASA)
  • NGC 1433 NGC 1433 This image, which depicts a spectacularly colorful galaxy, is red hot (both literally and figuratively). It was just released to the public, thanks to the European Southern Observatory's (ESO's) "ALMA radio telescope." The ALMA telescope is capable of peering through the veil of dust and gas to see light emitted at millimeter wavelengths. (Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/NASA/ESA/F. Combes)
  • M106 M106 This is the spiral galaxy M106, also known as NGC 4258. We can find this stunning object in the constellation Canes Venatici and is located 23.5 million light-years from Earth.Overall, M106 looks like a normal spiral galaxy. You can make out defined spiral arms, typically dark dust lanes, blue star clusters containing some of the youngest stars in the galaxy, and pink star-forming nebula containing the youngest stellar additions. Upon closer examination, you also notice to reddish spiral arms that appear different from the rest of the galaxy. (Image Credit: NASA/Hubble/Gendler/GaBany)
  • Meathook Galaxy Meathook Galaxy This spectacular galaxy is NGC 2442 (known informally as the “Meathook Galaxy”), which is located some 55 million light-years away in the constellation of Volans (The Flying Fish). The galaxy, in particular, is known for its asymmetrical appearance, which was likely the result of gravitational perturbation between it and an unseen galaxy from several millions of years ago. However, to this date, no such candidate has been uncovered as to the likely culprit of the crime. (If you can call it a crime, to give this galaxy the somewhat unique characteristic of being lopsided) (Image Credit: NASA/ESO)
  • UFO Galaxy UFO Galaxy This is NGC 2683, also known as the UFO Galaxy. It is located about 35-million light-years from Earth in the constellation Lynx. The galaxy appears nearly edge-on from our vantage point in the cosmos. Astronomers have traditionally believed it to be an unbarred spiral galaxy but recent studies suggest it might be a barred spiral galaxy instead; our view makes that hard to determine. An advantage of our vantage point is the ability to analyze the light emitted from the galactic center and measure the composition of the UFO’s dust lanes. NGC 2683 is both smaller and dimmer than our own Milky Way, but it contains about twice as many globular clusters as we do. (Image credit: NASA/Hubble)
  • M51 & NGC 5195 M51 & NGC 5195 Here, we take a closer look at the galactic tango surrounding M51 (also known as the Whirlpool Galaxy) and its smaller companion, NGC 5195. The gravitationally interacting pair, which can be found more than 30 million light-years from Earth, form a pretty structure resembling a rather large question mark. (Credit: Hubble Legacy Archive, NASA, ESA - Processing: José Jiménez Priego)
  • NGC 2623 NGC 2623 Located approximately 250 million light-years away, in the constellation of Cancer, NGC 2623 is a picture of perfection—two galaxies that now act as one. (Image Credit: Hubble Legacy Archive, ESA, NASA, Martin Pugh)
  • Tadpole Galaxy Tadpole Galaxy The Tadpole gets its iconic shape from interacting with a smaller, more compact galaxy many millions of years ago. (Image Credit: Hubble Legacy Archive, ESA, NASA; Processing – Bill Snyder (Heavens Mirror Observatory)
  • Antennae Antennae This collision is located in the constellation Corvus about 60 million light-years from Earth. As a result of the collision, this galaxy pair is undergoing an intense starburst phase (meaning there is a high rate of star formation). Within the next 400-million years or so, the Antennae nuclei will merge and these two galaxies will officially become one. Over time, the stars, dust, and gasses will coalesce around the new galactic nuclei and become a much larger elliptical galaxy, but perhaps the true magic that makes the Antennae so memorable will be gone. (Credit: NASA, ESA/Hubble Heritage Team0
  • Arp 272 Arp 272 Here, we have NGC 6050 - the galaxy located near the center. Close-by, we have IC 1179 (in the upper right). Both galaxies are interacting gravitationally - with a complete merger imminent. (Credit: Hubble Legacy Archive , ESA , NASA ; Processing - Martin Pugh)
  • NGC 1275 NGC 1275 NGC 1275, as its called, is the remnant of a spiral galaxy and an elliptical one. (Credit: Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), M. Donahue & J. Trauger (JPL), NASA)
  • NGCs 4038 and 4039 NGCs 4038 and 4039 This is none other than the region that has been dubbed ‘the Antennae.’ These galaxies are NGC 4038 and NGC 4039, not that you can really tell them apart. As you can clearly see, the two galaxies are currently embroiled in a galactic collision that is 100 million years in the making. The popular nickname of the Antennae came about because of the two long trails of stars, dust, and gasses that protruding from main boundaries of the galaxies (making them resemble a heart when viewed from a distance). Said material was basically stretched into two long tidal tails by the pull of gravity. (Credit: Star Shadows Remote Observatory and PROMPT/CTIO (Jack Harvey, Steve Mazlin, Rick Gilbert, and Daniel Verschatse)
  • NGC 4517 NGC 4517 Hubble captured this newly-released image (recently unearthed from Hubble's archives), showing a glorious spiral galaxy found in the constellation of Virgo, located approximately 40 million light-years from Earth. The galaxy in question, known as NGC 4517, is roughly the same size as our galaxy, tipping in as the larger galaxy by a small margin. In this image, we are seeing the galaxy from edge on, preventing us from seeing the full magnitude of its bright central region (which most likely contains a supermassive black hole) (Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Gilles Chapdelaine)
  • Messier 77 Messier 77 The galaxy, known as Messier 77 (or NGC 1068), is a spiral galaxy located some 60 million light-years from Earth (in the Cetus constellation). We're in a great position to study this galaxy, as its seen face-on from our perspective (instead of us merely being able to study the outermost edge). It's relative position from Earth also allows astronomers to probe the mystery of supermassive black holes, which are almost always found lurking at the galactic center of large galaxies. (Credit: Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona)
Jaime Trosper

About Jaime Trosper

Jaime is a freelance writer, who finds great joy in sharing the wonders of universe with others. She used this passion to launch "From Quarks to Quasars" in 2012.