The constellation of Virgo (The Virgin) is the largest of the Zodiac constellations, and the second largest overall after Hydra (The Water Snake). Its most appealing feature, however, is the sheer number of galaxies that lie within it. In this picture, among a crowd of face- and edge-on spiral, elliptical, and irregular galaxies, lies NGC 4866, a lenticular galaxy situated about 80 million light-years from Earth.
Lenticular galaxies are somewhere between spirals and ellipticals in terms of shape and properties. From the picture, we can appreciate the bright central bulge of NGC 4866, which contains primarily old stars, but no spiral arms are visible. The galaxy is seen from Earth as almost edge-on, meaning that the disc structure — a feature not present in elliptical galaxies — is clearly visible. Faint dust lanes trace across NGC 4866 in this image, obscuring part of the galaxy’s light.
To the right of the galaxy is a very bright star that appears to lie within NGC 4866’s halo. However, this star actually lies much closer to us; in front of the galaxy, along our line of sight. These kinds of perspective tricks are common when observing, and can initially deceive astronomers as to the true nature and position of objects such as galaxies, stars, and clusters.
This sharp image of NGC 4866 was captured by the Advanced Camera for Surveys, an instrument on the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.
European Space Agency Mission: Hubble
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
You are here. Everyone you've ever knownis here. Every human who has ever lived -- is here. Pictured above is the Earth-Moon system as captured by the Cassini missionorbiting Saturn in the outer Solar System. Earth is the brighter of the two spots near the center, while the Moon is visible to its lower left. The unprocessed image shows several streaks that are not stars but rathercosmic rays that struck the digital camera while it was taking the image. The image was snapped by Cassini on Friday and released on Saturday. At nearly the same time, many humans on Earth were snapping their own pictures of Saturn.