jul 152013

July 15, 2013

NGC 3244, a spiral galaxy in Antlia 

NGC 3244, a spiral galaxy in Antlia

Image Credit: ESO

NGC 3244 is a spiral galaxy of about 25,000 light-years across (only a quarter of the size of our own galaxy), located about 100 million light-years away from Earth in the southern constellation of Antlia (the Air Pump). It is receding from us at approximately 2761 kilometers per second.

This galaxy – discovered on April 22th, 1835 by the British astronomer John Herschel – has a small, dense core and open, well-defined spiral arms, of which one arm slightly protrudes, what makes NGC 3244 somewhat asymmetric. The arms are dotted with bluish regions of active star formation, and the galaxy also shows dark dust lanes along the spiral arms.

On 27 June 2010, a supernova, now known as SN 2010ev was discovered in NGC 3244, which is still visible as the — now faint — blue dot nestled within one of the thick spiral arms just to the left of the galaxy’s nucleus. At its brightest, SN 2010ev reached an apparent magnitude of about 14, making it about 1000 times dimmer than the naked eye can see, but it was still the third brightest supernova observed in 2010.

To the right of the galaxy, a foreground star in our own Milky Way, TYC 7713-527-1, shines brightly. Although the star seems a great deal brighter than SN 2010ev, this is actually an illusion created by the large difference in the distances of the two objects. In fact, if the supernova had been as close to Earth as TYC 7713-527-1, it would have been easily visible to the naked eye, unlike the aforementioned star.

The image was taken using the FORS2 instrument on the ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT), through three color filters, which were colored blue, green and red respectively. It was taken with the help of the President of the Czech Republic, Václav Klaus, during his visit to ESO’s Paranal Observatory, on the night of 6 April 2011. Therefore the galaxy is sometimes referred to as The Czech President’s Galaxy. The Czech Republic joined ESO in 2007, and this was the first visit of the country’s President to an ESO site. A framed print of the President’s Galaxy has been presented to Václav Klaus, as a memento of his visit to Paranal.

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