On Edge

Dancing on the edgeThis is NGC 7814, also known as the “Little Sombrero.” Its larger namesake, the Sombrero Galaxy, is another stunning example of an edge-on galaxy. Actually, the “Little Sombrero” is about the same size as its bright namesake, about 60,000 light-years across, but as it lies farther away, and so appears smaller in the sky.

Galaxies can take many shapes and be oriented any way relative to us in the sky. This can make it hard to figure out their actual morphology, as a galaxy can look very different from different viewpoints. NGC 7814 is a spiral galaxy that we see on edge. It has a bright central bulge and a bright halo of glowing gas extending outwards. The spiral arms appear as dark streaks because they are made up of dusty material that absorbs and blocks light from the galactic center behind them.

Image Credit: ESA / NASA

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