“The galaxy, a spiral beauty called Messier 94, is located about 17 million light-years away. In this image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, infrared light is represented in different colors, with blue having the shortest wavelengths and red, the longest.
How many rings do you see in this new image of the galaxy Messier 94, also known as NGC 4736? While at first glance one might see a number of them, astronomers believe there is just one. This image was captured in infrared light by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.
Historically, Messier 94 was considered to have two strikingly different rings: a brilliant, compact band encircling the galaxy’s core, and a faint, broad, swath of stars falling outside its main disk.
Astronomers have recently discovered that the outer ring, seen here in the deep blue glow of starlight, might actually be more of an optical illusion. A 2009 study combined infrared Spitzer observations with those from other telescopes, including ultraviolet data from NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer, now operated by the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena; visible data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey; and shorter-wavelength infrared light from the Two Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS). This more complete picture of Messier 94 indicates that we are really seeing two separate spiral arms, which, from our perspective, take on the appearance of a single, unbroken ring.
The bright inner ring of Messier 94 is very real, however. This area is sometimes identified as a “starburst ring” because of the frenetic pace of star formation in the confined area. Starbursts like this can often be triggered by gravitational encounters with other galaxies, but in this case might be caused by the galaxy’s oval shape.”
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Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge , on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.
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