Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2000 June 27

M63: The Sunflower Galaxy
Credit & Copyright: Satoshi Miyazaki (NAOJ), Suprime-Cam, Subaru Telescope, NOAJ

Explanation: One of the bright spiral galaxies visible in the north sky is M63, the Sunflower Galaxy. M63, also catalogued as NGC 5055, can be found with a small telescope in the constellation of Canes Venaciti. Visible in the above picture are long winding spiral arms glowing blue from a few bright young stars, emission nebulae glowing red from hot ionized hydrogen gas, and dark dust in numerous filaments. M63 interacts gravitationally with M51 (the Whirlpool Galaxy) and several smaller galaxies. Light takes about 35 million years to reach us from M63, and about 60,000 years to cross the Sb-type spiral galaxy. Stars in the outer regions of the Sunflower Galaxy rotate about the center at a speed so high they should fly off into space, indicating that some sort of invisible, gravitationally-binding, dark matter is present.

Tomorrow's picture: The Sky in Explosions

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
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