A spectacular new image of the Sculptor Galaxy (NGC 253) has been taken with the ESO VISTA telescope at the Paranal Observatory in Chile as part of one of its first major observational campaigns. By observing in infrared light VISTA’s view is less affected by dust and reveals a myriad of cooler stars as well as a prominent bar of stars across the central region. The VISTA image provides much new information on the history and development of the galaxy.
The Sculptor Galaxy (NGC 253) lies in the constellation of the same name and is one of the brightest galaxies in the sky. It is prominent enough to be seen with good binoculars and was discovered by Caroline Herschel from England in 1783. NGC 253 is a spiral galaxy that lies about 13 million light-years away. It is the brightest member of a small collection of galaxies called the Sculptor Group, one of the closest such groupings to our own Local Group of galaxies. Part of its visual prominence comes from its status as a starburst galaxy, one in the throes of rapid star formation. NGC 253 is also very dusty, which obscures the view of many parts of the galaxy (eso0902). Seen from Earth, the galaxy is almost edge on, with the spiral arms clearly visible in the outer parts, along with a bright core at its centre.
NGC 253 – click for 1600×1200 image
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