Saturday, January 4, 2014

Astronomy Picture of the Day: 01/04/14 - The Fireworks Galaxy

To start off 2014 right, this is the Fireworks Galaxy, aptly named given its brilliance. NGC 6946, as it is formally known as, lies about 10 million light-years from Earth in the constellation of Cepheus. When it was originally discovered by Sir William Herschel, the galaxy was widely believed to be a member of our local group, which is made up of over 50 galaxies, including several other dwarf-galaxies. It wasn"t until years later that astronomers discovered that the reddening seen enveloping the galaxy was from interstellar dust grains, obscuring our view (instead of red-shift).

Speaking of red, the applicable areas are star forming regions, teeming with new-life -- while the blue bits are actually celestial members of our own galaxy, which are obstructing our view of NGC 6946. Interestingly, several new supernova remnants have been discovered each year for the last 60 lurking within NGC 6946"s spiral arms. This is very unusual, as it is normal to only witness one supernova blast every 30 years in galaxies similar to our own.

References & Further Reading:

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Kennicutt (U. of Ariz./Inst. of Astr., U. of Cambridge) and the SINGS Team

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