M106

M106 Close Up

Credit: Composite Image Data - Hubble Legacy Archive; Adrian Zsilavec, Michelle Qualls, Adam Block / NOAO / AURA / NSF; Processing - André van der Hoeven

It’s time for an awesome galaxy picture, and today’s APOD fits the bill — another treasure dug from the Hubble Legacy Archive! (I’ve uploaded the full version for your viewing pleasure, click the image to view. You’re welcome.)

Close to the Great Bear (Ursa Major) and surrounded by the stars of the Hunting Dogs (Canes Venatici), this celestial wonder was discovered in 1781 by the metric French astronomer Pierre Mechain. Later, it was added to the catalog of his friend and colleague Charles Messier as M106. Modern deep telescopic views reveal it to be an island universe: a spiral galaxy around 30 thousand light-years across located only about 21 million light-years beyond the stars of the Milky Way. Along with prominent dust lanes and a bright central core, this colorful composite image highlights youthful blue star clusters and reddish stellar nurseries that trace the galaxy’s spiral arms. The high resolution galaxy portrait is a mosaic of data from Hubble’s sharp ACS camera combined with groundbased color image data. M106 (aka NGC 4258) is a nearby example of the Seyfert class of active galaxies, seen across the spectrum from radio to X-rays. Energetic active galaxies are powered by matter falling into a massive central black hole.

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