The Cosmos with NGC 4254

This ESO Picture of the Week features a galaxy named both NGC 4254 and Messier 99, a beautiful cosmic spectacle located in the constellation of Coma Berenices (Berenice’s Hair).  Messier 99 is special, owing to its classification as a grand design spiral galaxy: a kind of galactic architecture featuring strong, prominent, well-defined arms that wrap clearly around the galaxy’s centre. Only around 10 percent of all spirals are of the grand design variety, making objects like Messier 99 somewhat uncommon. The justification behind Messier 99’s categorisation is clear in this image; bright, swirling arms carve through the dark surrounding space, and are easily identifiable as a number of different, coherent structures. This image was created as part of the ESO Cosmic Gems programme, an outreach initiative to produce images of interesting, intriguing or visually attractive objects using ESO telescopes, for the purposes of education and public outreach. The programme makes use of telescope time that cannot be used for science observations. All data collected may also be suitable for scientific purposes, and are made available to astronomers through ESO’s science archive.

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