Image Credit: Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona

This stunning 'wheel in the sky' is NGC 1398: a galaxy that lurks within the Fornax constellation some 65 million light-years from Earth. It spans approximately 135,000 light-years in diameter, which makes it about 35% larger than our own galaxy (it's about 100,000 light-years across).

NGC 1398 is a barred spiral galaxy in nature, and it contains about 300 billion solar masses of material, part of which is concentrated within 100 billion stars. Its most striking features must be its bright central bulge, and the accompanying rope-like inner ring surrounding it. In reality, there is a third ring, which is comprised of two sweeping, nearly-circular spiral arms that come within close proximity of each other, and eventually overlap. They, in turn, are surrounded by splotchy, flocculent spurs.

Throughout recorded history, astronomers have only seen one supernova explosion in NGC 1398, called SN 1996N. It was seen northeast of the galaxy's nucleus in 1996, but several other supernovae have been observed relatively nearby, given the fact that NGC 1398 is a member of the Fornax cluster of galaxies.

See a larger image here.

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