Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

The dusty disc of NGC 247

Date:
March 4, 2011
Source:
ESO
Summary:
A new image of NGC 247 reveals the fine details of this highly inclined spiral galaxy and its rich backdrop. Astronomers say this highly tilted orientation, when viewed from Earth, explains why the distance to this prominent galaxy was previously overestimated.

This picture of the spiral galaxy NGC 247 was taken using the Wide Field Imager (WFI) at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile. NGC 247 is thought to lie about 11 million light-years away in the constellation of Cetus (The Whale). It is one of the closest galaxies to the Milky Way and a member of the Sculptor Group.
Credit: ESO

The spiral galaxy NGC 247 is one of the closest spiral galaxies of the southern sky. In this new view from the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope in Chile large numbers of the galaxy's component stars are clearly resolved and many glowing pink clouds of hydrogen, marking regions of active star formation, can be made out in the loose and ragged spiral arms.

NGC 247 is part of the Sculptor Group, a collection of galaxies associated with the Sculptor Galaxy (NGC 253). This is the nearest group of galaxies to our Local Group, which includes the Milky Way, but putting a precise value on such celestial distances is inherently difficult.

To measure the distance from Earth to a nearby galaxy, astronomers have to rely on a type of variable star called a Cepheid to act as a distance marker. Cepheids are very luminous stars, whose brightness varies at regular intervals. The time taken for the star to brighten and fade can be plugged into a simple mathematical relation that gives its intrinsic brightness. When compared with the measured brightness this gives the distance. However, this method isn't foolproof, as astronomers think this period-luminosity relationship depends on the composition of the Cepheid.

Another problem arises from the fact that some of the light from a Cepheid may be absorbed by dust en route to Earth, making it appear fainter, and therefore further away than it really is. This is a particular problem for NGC 247 with its highly inclined orientation, as the line of sight to the Cepheids passes through the galaxy's dusty disc.

However, a team of astronomers is currently looking into the factors that influence these celestial distance markers in a study called the Araucaria Project.* The team has already reported that NGC 247 is more than a million light-years closer to the Milky Way than was previously thought, bringing its distance down to just over 11 million light-years.

Apart from the main galaxy itself, this view also reveals numerous galaxies shining far beyond NGC 247. In the upper right of the picture three prominent spirals form a line and still further out, far behind them, many more galaxies can be seen, some shining right through the disc of NGC 247.

This colour image was created from a large number of monochrome exposures taken through blue, yellow/green and red filters taken over many years. In addition exposures through a filter that isolates the glow from hydrogen gas have also been included and coloured red. The total exposure times per filter were 20 hours, 19 hours, 25 minutes and 35 minutes, respectively.

Note

*The Araucaria Project is a collaboration between astronomers from institutions in Chile, the United States and Europe. ESO's Very Large Telescope provided data for the project.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by ESO. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Wolfgang Gieren, Grzegorz Pietrzyński, Igor Soszyński, Olaf Szewczyk, Fabio Bresolin, Rolf-Peter Kudritzki, Miguel A. Urbaneja, Jesper Storm, Dante Minniti, Alejandro Garcνa-Varela. The Araucaria Project: The Distance to the Sculptor Galaxy Ngc 247 from Near-Infrared Photometry of Cepheid Variables. The Astrophysical Journal, 2009; 700 (2): 1141 DOI: 10.1088/0004-637X/700/2/1141

Cite This Page:

ESO. "The dusty disc of NGC 247." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 March 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110302075813.htm>.
ESO. (2011, March 4). The dusty disc of NGC 247. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110302075813.htm
ESO. "The dusty disc of NGC 247." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110302075813.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Comet Siding Spring Grazes Mars' Atmosphere

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) — A comet from the farthest reaches of the solar system passed extremely close to Mars this weekend, giving astronomers a rare opportunity to study it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

Latin America Launches Communications Satellite

AFP (Oct. 17, 2014) — Argentina launches a home-built satellite, a first for Latin America. It will ride a French-made Ariane 5 rocket into orbit, and will provide cell phone, digital TV, Internet and data services to the lower half of South America. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Week @ NASA, October 17, 2014

This Week @ NASA, October 17, 2014

NASA (Oct. 17, 2014) — Power spacewalk, MAVEN’s “First Light”, Hubble finds extremely distant galaxy and more... Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com
Saturn's 'Death Star' Moon Might Have A Hidden Ocean

Saturn's 'Death Star' Moon Might Have A Hidden Ocean

Newsy (Oct. 17, 2014) — The smallest of Saturn's main moons, Mimas, wobbles as it orbits. Research reveals it might be due to a global ocean underneath its icy surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins