Best of AOP - Galaxies

NGC 678

In the 1940's and 1950's one of the problems that astronomers worked on was whether the spiral arms of galaxies curved in the direction of a galaxy's rotation- or followed it. In order to figure it out, astronomers needed to know which arms where in the foreground and which parts of the galaxy were on the "backside." This would be determined by the dust lanes in the galaxy (which block the light of things behind them). The rotation of a galaxy would be determined by the spectra of its stars. In this example, there is little question as to what is in the foreground- the prominent dust lane divides the disk and bulge dramatically. The rotation of the galaxy is also easy to determine. However, figuring out which way the arms spiral in a nearly edge-on galaxy requires some detective work. The ends of the galaxy show a bit of spiral structure (especially the left side in this image) and give astronomers that vital clue to solving this typical problem. Famous astronomers such as Hubble and Vaucouleurs worked on these projects to further our understanding of the cosmic frontier. NGC 678 is more than 120 million light years away. Note that the gravitational influence of NGC 678 has distorted its nearby elliptical neighbor- NGC 680.

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Last Updated: 25-Feb-2014

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About This Image

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20in RC Optical Systems telescope Operating at f/8.1

Paramount ME Robotic Telescope Mount

SBIG ST10XME CCD camera with color filter wheel

LRGB color production was used to create this image.

Taken under poor seeing conditions.

Color data by Bill and Brenda Eddy (see their image of NGC 70).

Two iterations of L-R deconvolution (sharpening) algorithm using CCDsharp were applied to the luminance image.

Digital Development (DDP) via Maxim/DL was also used in order to display the very dim and very bright details of

the image simultaneously.

High winds made acquisition of this data difficult.

Luminance = 70 minutes binned 1x1

Red = 20 minutes binned 2x2

Green = 20 minutes binned 2x2

Blue = 20 minutes binned 2x2

Minimum credit line: Richard and Leslie Maynard/Adam Block/NOAO/AURA/NSF