Image credit & copyright: NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.
Located about 98 million light years away in the constellation Leo (The Lion) is this beautiful Grand Design Spiral Galaxy cataloged as NGC 3370 and it’s shown here in amazing HD thanks to the great orbiting legend in the sky; the Hubble Space Telescope. This nearly face-on view of the galaxy shows brilliant areas of star formation as well as the classical dust lanes that mirror the spiral arms. At its heart is the telltale yellow glow of older, ancient stars that have pooled to the center over the eons.
In late 1994 this galaxy became popular for being home to what’s called a standard candle; a Type 1a supernova cataloged as SN 1994ae. Type 1a supernovae are currently one of the most accurate ways astronomers measure distance in the universe. This image is also detailed enough to actually spot and measure Cepheid Variable Stars (another way that distance in the universe is measured). Those two facts lead astronomers to a very accurate measure of distance to this object.
Of the seemingly endless background galaxies, two really stand out. 48kb in the upper right corner is a galaxy much more distant than 3370 and it appears to be tidally interacting with its companion. Lower down on the right is a Sombrero Galaxy look alike cataloged as 45kb and it too is much more distant than 3370 but close enough to it to stand out in the photo. Go ahead and expand this image and explore for yourself.
Name: NGC 3370.
What is it?: Grand Design Spiral Galaxy.
How big is it?: Roughly 100,000 light years in diameter.
How far away is it?: Roughly 98 million light years (30 megaparsecs).
Apparent magnitude?: A pretty dim 12 or +12.
Where is it? (General): Constellation Leo (The Lion).
Where is it? (Exact RA/Dec J2000): R.A. 10h 47m 04s.18 / Dec. +17° 16′ 22″.8.
NASA APOD page for this photo: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap130808.html
NASA Hubblesite page for this photo: http://hubblesite.org/gallery/wallpaper/pr2003024a/
NASA Hubblesite News Center page for this photo: http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2003/24/image/a/
Hubble Heritage Site page for background galaxies in this photo: http://heritage.stsci.edu/2003/24/supplemental.html