Friday, 19 June 2015

Galaxies Beyond the Heart: Maffei 1 and 2

The two galaxies on the far left were unknown until 1968. Although they would have appeared as two of the brighter galaxies on the night sky, the opaque dust of the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy had obscured them from being seen in visible light. This image in infrared light taken recently by the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), however, finds these galaxies in great detail far behind -- but seemingly next to -- the photogenic Heart nebula (IC 1805). The spiral galaxy near the top is the easiest to spot and is known as Maffei 2. Just below and to its right is fuzzy-looking Maffei 1, the closest giant elliptical galaxy to Earth. This colored image spans three full moons from top to bottom. The Maffei galaxies each span about 15,000 light years across and lie about 10 million light years away toward the constellation of the Queen of Ethiopia (Cassiopeia). On the image right, stars, gaseous filaments, and warm dust highlight a detailed infrared view of the Heart nebula.