Astronomy Picture of the Day

Messier 104
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Legacy Archive;
Processing & Copyright: Ignacio Diaz Bobillo

Explanation: A gorgeous spiral galaxy, Messier 104 is famous for its nearly edge-on profile featuring a broad ring of obscuring dust lanes. Seen in silhouette against an extensive central bulge of stars, the swath of cosmic dust lends a broad brimmed hat-like appearance to the galaxy suggesting a more popular moniker, the Sombrero Galaxy. This sharp view of the well-known galaxy was made from over 10 hours of Hubble Space Telescope image data, processed to bring out faint details often lost in the overwhelming glare of M104’s bright central bulge. Also known as NGC 4594, the Sombrero galaxy can be seen across the spectrum, and is host to a central supermassive black hole. About 50,000 light-years across and 28 million light-years away, M104 is one of the largest galaxies at the southern edge of the Virgo Galaxy Cluster. Still, the spiky foreground stars in this field of view lie well within our own Milky Way.

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