Astronomy Picture of the Day: 4/2/13 – M79

Click to see a larger image (CREDIT: Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope/Coelum)

This is the globular cluster M79, located within the constellation Lepus. It is 41,000 light years from Earth – orbiting high above the Milky Way.


M79 is particularly interesting because it’s not from the Milky Way. Instead, it is an extragalactic globular cluster originating from the Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy. This star cluster was stolen from the dwarf galaxy as a result of its current very close encounter. In fact, the Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy is only about 25,000 light-years from the solar system and about 42,000 light-years from the galactic center, making it the closest neighboring galaxy to our current location.


In this image, you can see several foreground stars that exist between us and M79. You can also make out dozens of background galaxies and even more stars of the Milky Way’s stars that orbit beyond the globular cluster.

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