Astronomers using the Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) on ESO’s Very Large Telescope have produced a spectacularly detailed image of the central part of the grand design spiral galaxy Messier 99.
Messier 99 is located 42 million light-years away in the constellation of Coma Berenices.
The galaxy was discovered, together with the neighboring Messier 98 and Messier 100, by the French astronomer Pierre Méchain on March 15, 1781.
Charles Messier observed Messier 99 a month later and saw a ‘nebula without star, of a very rare light, but a little clearer than the previous. The nebula is between two stars of the 7th & 8th magnitude.’
Also known as M99, NGC 4254, IRAS 12162+1441 and LEDA 39578, Messier 99 has a diameter of around 80,000 light-years.
The galaxy contains about 100,000 million solar masses and belongs to the Virgo Cluster, a concentration of several hundred galaxies.
Messier 99 has an unusual, asymmetric shape with a displaced core and unequal spiral arms. It is a rare example of a galaxy with one dominant spiral arm.
“Messier 99 is an example of a grand design spiral galaxy, featuring strong, prominent, well-defined arms that wrap clearly around the galaxy’s center,” ESO astronomers said.
“It was imaged in exquisite detail by the MUSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope.”
“It is a combination of observations conducted in different colors, or wavelengths, of light, showing clouds of gas ionized by newly-born stars,” they added.
“Hydrogen, oxygen and sulfur gas are shown in red, blue and orange respectively.”
“The image was taken as part of the Physics at High Angular resolution in Nearby GalaxieS (PHANGS) project, which is making high-resolution observations of nearby galaxies across all wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum to understand the life-cycle of star formation in galaxies.”
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