The ring floating in the picture above is the size of a galaxy. In fact, it’s part of the Sombrero Galaxy, one of the largest galaxies in the nearby Virgo Cluster of Galaxies. The dark band of dust that obscures the mid-section of the Sombrero Galaxy in optical light actually glows brightly in infrared light. The digitally enhanced image above shows the infrared glow as recorded by the Spitzer Space Telescope superposed in false-color on an existing image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in visible light. A visible light image is shown below for comparison. The Sombrero Galaxy, also known as M104, is about 50,000 light years across and roughly 28 million light years away. It can be seen with a small telescope in the direction of the constellation Virgo.
Image Credits: NASA/Spitzer and NASA/Hubble