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Dark Energy Camera Captures Stunning Picture of Southern Pinwheel Galaxy in All its Glory

Image Credit: NOIRlab.

Image Credit: NOIRlab.

Located 15 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation Hydra, the Southern Pinwheel galaxy, also known as the Messier 83, was discovered in 1752 by French astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille.

With the help of Dark Energy Camera (DECam), Astro Data Archive at the Community Science and Data Center (CSDC) Program at NSF's National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research (NOIR) Lab have captured a spectacular picture of the Southern Pinwheel galaxy. Located 15 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation Hydra, the Southern Pinwheel galaxy, also known as the Messier 83, was discovered in 1752 by French astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille. The photograph was captured by a DECam on a Victor M Blanco 4 metre Telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.

The recent image released by Noir Lab on YouTube might also give a hint on how our own Milky Way Galaxy may look from afar. Explaining the image, NOIR Lab says that the dark tendrils curling through the galaxy are lanes of dust blocking the light. The red dots of lights visible in the picture are the hot hydrogen gas where new stars are being created. The Southern Pinwheel galaxy has a diameter of around 50,000 light-years which is quite similar to the Milky Way Galaxy that had a diameter of 100,000–200,000 light-years.

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) the Southern Pinwheel has an apparent magnitude of 7.5 making it one of the brightest spiral galaxies in the night sky. The American agency says that it can be observed using a pair of binoculars most easily in May.

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In a statement, the NOIR Lab said that the images will help in preparing for upcoming observations by Vera C. Rubin Observatory which is a future program of NOIRLab. Starting in 2023 the ten year-operation of Rubin Observatory will carry out an optical survey of the visible sky named the Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST). Monika Soraisam of the University of Illinois, who is also the principal investigator for DECam's observations of Messier 83 said in a statement that the Messier 83 observations are part of an ongoing program to produce a map of time-varying phenomena in nearby southern galaxies in preparation for Rubin Observatory's Legacy Survey of Space and Time.