Image Credit & Copyright: ESO/La Silla/IDA/Danish 1.5 m/ R. Gendler, U. G. Jørgensen, J. Skottfelt, K. Harpsøe.
In the previous post I detailed dwarf galaxy ESO 540-31 in the Sculptor Group of Galaxies so let’s take some time and keep the ball rolling with the brightest member of that cluster of galaxies; The Sculptor Galaxy. In fact, this galaxy, at an apparent magnitude of around 8 is within binocular view and one of the brightest galaxies in the night sky.
With a name like Sculptor Galaxy you can imagine that it has some relevance besides just a member of the 20-ish members of the group with the same name and in the Sculptor constellation. If that thought crossed your mind for some reason you would be correct. NGC 253 lies at or near the heart of the Sculptor Group which places it at about 12 million light years away from our solar system.
We view this galaxy at a steep angle, almost edge-on (positive camber for us race fans) so we can only dream about how beautiful it would look from Spaceship Earth if it were face-on. None the less it’s still a fascinating object (Or so I hear because it’s a southern hemisphere sight.) that we can learn much about. Let’s start with, what I like to call; the syrup on this pancake. Those of you that aren’t as lame as I; know these as vast gas and dust bands that appear to be covering the disk of the galaxy and likely soaked into the arms themselves providing ideal conditions for star formation to take place which there is no shortage of in this object.
The Sculptor Galaxy is also known as a “Starburst Galaxy” which means that within the arms of the galaxies disk, new stars are accreting, compressing, heating and fusing into life at a rapid rate. The telltale blue hue and pockets of bright blue make this apparent. It’s believed that the intense star formation was kicked off roughly 30 million years ago when a dwarf galaxy was cannibalized into its mass.
At its core, high energy X-rays and gamma rays lead astronomers to believe it houses a supermassive black hole roughly 5 million times the mass of the Sun.
I think I may turn this post into a (ZOOM) post so be sure to check the next post as we will take an even close look at this beautiful structure in the universe.
NAME: NGC 253, Sculptor Galaxy, Silver Dollar Galaxy, Silver Coin Galaxy.
WHAT IS IT?: Nearly edge on spiral galaxy.
HOW FAR AWAY IS IT?: Roughly 12 million light years as we see it.
HOW BIG IS IT?: Roughly 80,000 light years in diameter and 27.5’x7’ arcminutes on the night sky.
WHO DISCOVERED IT & WHEN?: Caroline Herschel in 1783.
APPARENT MAGNITUDE?: 8 or +8.
WHERE IS IT? (General): Constellation Sculptor (The Whale) and brightest member of the Sculptor Group of Galaxies (Sculptor Filament or South Galactic Pole Group or NGC 253 Group).
WHERE IS IT? (Exact RA/DEC J2000): RA 00h 47m 33s / DEC −25° 17′ 18″.
European Southern Observatory (ESO) page for this image: http://www.eso.org/public/images/potw1017a/
ESO La Silla page: http://www.eso.org/public/teles-instr/lasilla/
ESO images of the La Silla Observatory: http://www.eso.org/public/images/archive/category/lasilla/