Spider Web of Stars in Galaxy IC 342

Mar 20, 2012
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

(PhysOrg.com) -- Looking like a spider's web swirled into a spiral, Galaxy IC 342 presents its delicate pattern of dust in this image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Seen in infrared light, faint starlight gives way to the glowing bright patterns of dust found throughout the galaxy's disk.

At a distance of about 10 million light-years, IC 342 is relatively close by galactic standards, however our vantage point places it directly behind the disk of our own Milky Way. The intervening dust makes it difficult to see in visible light, but infrared light penetrates this veil easily. IC 342 belongs to the same group as its even more obscured galactic neighbor, Maffei 2.

IC 342 is nearly face-on to our view, giving a clear, top-down view of the structure of its disk. It has a low surface brightness compared to other spirals, indicating a lower density of stars (seen here as a ). Its dust structures show up much more vividly (red). Blue dots are stars closer to us, in our own Milky Way.

New stars are forming in the disk at a healthy rate. The very center glows especially brightly in the infrared, highlighting an enormous burst of star formation occurring in this tiny region. To either side of the center, a small bar of dust and gas is helping to fuel this formation.

Data from Spitzer's are shown in blue (3.6 microns), green (4.5 microns) and red (5.8 and 8.0 microns).

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yyz
not rated yet Mar 21, 2012
IC 342 and the nearby giant elliptical galaxy Maffei 1 are the largest and brightest members of the IC 342/Maffei Group, a small collection of nearby galaxies that for the most part are heavily obscured by our own galaxy: http://en.wikiped...ei_Group

Minus the heavy absorption from the Milky Way, IC 342 and Maffei 1 would both appear as naked-eye objects each about a degree in diameter and separated by only a few degrees in the night sky, surely an impressive sight.

A visible light image of this delicate spiral (taken with the 4m scope at Kitt Peak) is as impressive as the IR Spitzer image shown above: http://www.noao.e...1000.jpg
Estevan57
1.8 / 5 (20) Mar 22, 2012
Thanks for the link to this, yyz. It really is impressive and will make a great desktop picture for my windows pc.