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APOD: The wonky disk of NGC7331 October 22, 2008

Posted by Sarah in science.
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Spiral galaxy NGC7331

Spiral galaxy NGC7331

Today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) is really gorgeous. This image of spiral galaxy NGC7331, found in the constellation of Pegasus and located at a distance of approximately 50 million lightyears, was taken with the optical LAICA instrument on the Zeiss 3.5-m telescope at Calar Alto Observatory in Spain. The exquisite quality of the picture shows the clear warping in the disk of the galaxy.  Commonly observed in spiral galaxies, warped disks are thought to be the result of past encounters with other galaxies, or some kind of gravitational interaction with other nearby galaxies.

A large fraction of the entire image is taken up by the extensive galactic cirrus emission – the hazy light coming from diffuse clouds of gas and dust illuminated by the stars in the galaxy. The background of the image is littered with more island universes in all shapes and sizes.

It’s great to see what amazing images can be produced with a (by today’s standards) modest-sized telescope. The original press release on the Calar Alto website has some detailed information on the processing techniques the photographer used to process the original data to make this image as stunning as it is without compromising scientific accuracy.

Image credit: Vicent Peris (OAUV / PTeam), Gilles Bergond, Calar Alto Observatory.

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