Astronomy Picture of the Day
APOD: 1999 November 14 - M31: The Andromeda Galaxy
Explanation: Andromeda is the nearest major galaxy to our own Milky Way Galaxy. Our Galaxy is thought to look much like Andromeda. Together these two galaxies dominate the Local Group of galaxies. The diffuse light from Andromeda is caused by the hundreds of billions of stars that compose it. The several distinct stars that surround Andromeda's image are actually stars in our Galaxy that are well in front of the background object. Andromeda is frequently referred to as M31 since it is the 31st object on Messier's list of diffuse sky objects. M31 is so distant it takes about two million years for light to reach us from there. Much about M31 remains unknown, including why the center contains two nuclei.
APOD: 1998 February 3 - A Magellanic Mural
Explanation: Two galaxies stand out to casual observers in Earth's Southern Hemisphere: the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) and the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC). These irregular galaxies are two of the closest galaxies to our Milky Way Galaxy. Recent observations of the LMC (on the left) have determined that it is on a nearly circular orbit around our Galaxy, and have even helped in the determination of the composition of dark matter in our Galaxy. The above photograph spans 40 degrees. Visible on the lower left of the LMC is the Tarantula Nebula (in red). In the foreground to the right of the SMC is globular cluster 47 Tucanae, appearing here as a bright point of light.
APOD: 1997 March 29 - The Closest Galaxy: The Sagittarius Dwarf
Explanation: What's the closest galaxy to our Milky Way? For many years astronomers thought it was the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). But the seemingly insignificant fuzzy patch shown above turned out to be part of a galaxy that is even closer. Deemed the "Sagittarius Dwarf", this small galaxy went unnoticed until its discovery in 1994 by R. Ibata, G. Gilmore and M. Irwin (RGO). The reason the Sagittarius Dwarf hadn't been discovered earlier is because it is so dim, it is so spread out over the sky, and there are so many Milky Way stars in front of it. The distance to the Sagittarius Dwarf was recently measured to be about one third of the distance to the LMC. Astronomers now believe that this galaxy is slowly being torn apart by the vast gravitational forces of our Galaxy.
APOD: 1999 October 3 - Nearby Dwarf Galaxy Leo I
Explanation: Leo I is a dwarf spheroidal galaxy in the Local Group of galaxies dominated by our Milky Way Galaxy and M31. Leo I is thought to be the most distant of the eleven known small satellite galaxies orbiting our Milky Way Galaxy. Besides the LMC and the SMC, all Milky Way satellite galaxies are small, dim, dwarf spheroidals, including the closest galaxy - the Sagittarius Dwarf. Leo I is more distant than most of them, thought to be about 250 kpc away. Although very little star-forming gas is visible in Leo I, analysis of star ages shows that stars have formed as recently as a billion years ago.
APOD: 2000 October 23 - Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy NGC 205 in the Local Group
Explanation: Our Milky Way Galaxy is not alone. It is part of a gathering of about 25 galaxies known as the Local Group. Members include the Great Andromeda Galaxy (M31), M32, M33, the Large Magellanic Cloud, the Small Magellanic Cloud, Dwingeloo 1, several small irregular galaxies, and many dwarf elliptical and dwarf spheroidal galaxies. Pictured on the lower left is one of the many dwarf ellipticals: NGC 205. Like M32, NGC 205 is a companion to the large M31, and can sometimes be seen to the south of M31's center in photographs. The above image shows NGC 205 to be unusual for an elliptical galaxy in that it contains at least two dust clouds (at 1 and 4 o'clock - they are visible but hard to spot) and signs of recent star formation. This galaxy is sometimes known as M110, although it was actually not part of Messier's original catalog.
APOD: 1999 January 22 - Pegasus dSph: Little Galaxy of the Local Group
Explanation: The Pegasus dwarf spheroidal galaxy (Peg dSph) is a small, newly recognized member of the Local Group of Galaxies. Likely a satellite companion of the Local Group's dominant player, the large spiral Andromeda (M31), the Pegasus dwarf galaxy is almost hidden in the glare of relatively bright foreground stars in our own Milkyway. Still, this dramatic Keck telescope 3-color image reveals Peg dSph as a clump of fainter, bluer stars 2,000 or so light-years across. Excitement over discoveries of Peg dSph and other nearby dwarf galaxies reflects the fact that little galaxies may loom large in the process of galaxy evolution. They are thought to be the building blocks from which larger galaxies are constructed.
Authors & editors:
& Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.