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This is page 2 of the collection of the 50 most spectacular galaxy pictures of all time. Use the navigation pager near the bottom of each page to view all other pages. You can also view all the galaxy pictures along with their descriptions on a single page.
The Cigar Galaxy (M82) is a starburst galaxy in the Ursa Major (Great Bear) constellation. Its distance from the Earth is about 12 million light-years. The rate of new star formation in the central regions of the galaxy is 10 times faster than what it is in our Milky Way Galaxy. The above optical and infrared composite picture of the galaxy shows flame-like plumes of hydrogen gas blasting outward from its central regions. What look like scattered pale stars are actually clusters of hundreds of thousands of stars.
Here is another composite picture of the Cigar Galaxy (see a description of the galaxy below the previous picture) made by combining images from three different telescopes. The Chandra X-ray Observatory's X-ray data is represented by blue color, the Spitzer Space Telescope's infrared data is represented by red color, and the rest is mostly visible light from the Hubble Space Telescope. The blue color represents gas that has been heated to millions of degrees by the violent outflow from the central star-forming regions of the galaxy. The red color represents cooler gases and dust. The orange color represents hydrogen gas at 10,000 degrees Celsius.
The above picture looks a bit like a person wearing a long, white cloak studded with jewels. It is a Hubble Space Telescope image of M100 (NGC 4321), a grand design spiral galaxy located about 50 million light-years away from the Earth in the direction of the Coma Berenices constellation. It has a diameter of 160,000 light-years.
The above picture shows the grand-design spiral galaxy M74 (NGC 628), as seen through the Hubble Space Telescope. It is located in the direction of the Pisces (Fish) constellation, at a distance of 32 million light-years from the Earth. The bright knots of glowing gas along the spiral arms indicate regions of star formation.
NGC 6872 and IC 4970 are interacting galaxies located more than 212 million light-years away from the Earth in the direction of the Pavo (Peacock) constellation of the Southern Hemisphere. NGC 6872 is one of the largest known spiral galaxies. Its length from tip-to-tip is more than 522,000 light-years, which is at least four times the length of our Milky Way Galaxy! The diameter of its central 'bar' is 26,000 light-years. In the above picture, NGC 6872 is visible as the long galaxy that sort of looks like the 'integral symbol' of calculus. Its companion, IC 4970, is the smaller disk-shaped galaxy seen just above the center of the picture. The bright star visible near the lower right of the center is not a part of either of these two galaxies. It is a nearby star located in the Milky Way Galaxy. The blueish dots present in the upper left spiral arm of NGC 6872 indicate star-forming regions. The central bar of the galaxy contains the oldest stars and no star-forming regions.
Displayed above is a sharp picture of the Bode's Galaxy (M81) taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. It is a spiral galaxy located about 12 million light-years away from the Earth in the direction of the Ursa Major (Great Bear) constellation. Its spiral arms are studded with bluish stars, which are young hot stars formed only a few million years ago. The greenish spots on the arms are dense regions of star formation. The brown, winding streaks are dust lanes. The central bulge of the galaxy contains the oldest stars. It has an active galactic nucleus, which contains a supermassive black hole with 70-million solar masses.
The above picture shows finely textured dust-lanes around the brightly glowing core of NGC 3190, a spiral galaxy located about 77 million light-years away from the Earth in the direction of the Leo constellation. It is the largest galaxy in the 'Hickson 44' group of galaxies. Its dust lanes and central disk look warped, possibly due to the effects of gravity of other galaxies in the Hickson 44 group. Dust lanes are bands of interstellar dust, which appear like dark streaks against the brighter background of a galaxy.
NGC 1300 is a barred spiral-galaxy located about 69 million light-years away from the Earth in the direction of the Eridanus (River) constellation. In an unbarred spiral-galaxy, the arms wind all the way down to its center, but in a barred spiral-galaxy they are connected to the two ends of a straight bar of stars that contains the nucleus of the galaxy at its center. In the above galaxy picture, you can see fine structures traced by winding, brownish dust-lanes. If you look closely at its center, you'll see a spiral within a spiral. The length of the small spiral in the center is about 3,300 light-years. The entire galaxy has a length of about 110,000 light-years.
The above picture shows NGC 1232, an intermediate spiral-galaxy lying in the Eridanus (River) constellation. Its distance from the Earth is about 65 million light-years. It contains billions of young and old stars. Clusters of young stars appear as the bluish regions along its spiral arms. Old stars are present in the yellowish core of the galaxy. The dust lanes appear brown. A small companion galaxy near the top left looks like the Greek letter "theta."
Hoag's Object is a mysterious, ring-shaped galaxy located about 600 million light-years away from the Earth in the direction of the Serpens Caput (Serpent's Head) constellation. Its diameter is about 100,000 light-years. It consists of an outer ring and an inner ball of densely packed stars. The two are separated by a gap, as can be seen in the above Hubble Space Telescope picture of the galaxy. The outer bluish ring is thought to consist of younger stars, whereas the inner yellowish ball is thought to consist of older stars. What created this unusual shape of the galaxy still remains a mystery. A very interesting coincidence is the presence of yet another ring galaxy located far, far behind the Hoag's Object; it is visible through the gap between its outer ring and its inner ball, roughly near the "one o'clock" position!