Image of the Day: A Spectacular Dwarf Galaxy

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This picture of the the dwarf spiral galaxy NGC 247 was taken using the Wide Field Imager (WFI) at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile. NGC 247 is thought to lie about 11 million light-years away in the constellation of Cetus (The Whale). It is one of the closest galaxies to the Milky Way and a member of the Sculptor Group.

A team of astronomers is currently looking into the factors that influence celestial distance markers in a study called the Araucaria Project. The team has already reported that NGC 247 is more than a million light-years closer to the Milky Way than was previously thought, bringing its distance down to just over 11 million light-years.

Apart from the main galaxy itself, this view also reveals numerous galaxies shining far beyond NGC 247. In the upper right of the picture three prominent spirals form a line and still further out, far behind them, many more galaxies can be seen, some shining right through the disc of NGC 247.

This image below of  NGC 247 was taken by Galaxy Evolution Explorer on October 13, 2003, in a single orbit exposure of 1600 seconds. The region that looks like a "hole" in the upper part of the galaxy is a location with a deficit of gas and therefore a lower star formation rate and ultraviolet brightness. Optical images of this galaxy show a bright star on the southern edge. This star is faint and red in the Galaxy Evolution Explorer ultraviolet image, revealing that it is a foreground star in our Milky Way galaxy.

The string of background galaxies to the North-East (upper left) of NGC 247 is 355 million light years from our Milky Way galaxy whereas NGC 247 is a mere 9 million light years away. The faint blue light that can be seen in the Galaxy Evolution Explorer image of the upper two of these background galaxies may indicate that they are in the process of merging together.

PIA04922

Credit: ESO

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