One of the great things about Astronomy Picture of the Day is that it often shows aspects of the universe that are close to home and easy to understand for the general public. Recent examples are a rocket launch
, a New York City sunset or Manhattan as Stonehenge
, iridescent clouds over Nepal
, noctilucent clouds over London
, a spotty sunrise over Brisbane
, auroras over northern Canada
, the Moon eclipses Saturn
, Alicante Beach Moonrise
, a solar filament erupts
, spacecraft Rosetta shows comet has two components
, and a cave with aurora skylight
. All these APODs teach the public about the cosmos by staying on the Earth or at least by venturing no farther than the solar system.
Another recent APOD certainly strayed from the solar system, but only as far as it had to go to show us the nearast object of its kind: Gliese 832c, the nearast potentially habitable exoplanet
. Today's APOD is slightly similar. No, NGC 253 is certainly not the nearest galaxy to our own, as it isn't even part of the Local Group of galaxies. It isn't even the nearest starburst galaxy, as dwarf galaxy IC 10
is probably only two million light-years from us. But NGC 253 is the brightest galaxy of the Sculptor group, which is the nearest galaxy group outside the Local Group. And for the amateur observer NGC 253 is definitely one of the best galaxies.
http://www.thefreelibrary.com/NGC+253-- ... 0357035774
Many galaxies vie for the title 'best in sky' and the choice is obviously very subjective, but there is no doubting that for many observers NGC 253 would be close to the top of their list.
Some observers claim it is a naked eye object, and while this may only be true under a really good sky with the galaxy overhead, it is certainly a stunning sight in any form of optical aid.
So if you live in the southern hemisphere, or if you live in the southern part of the northern hemisphere, grab your binoculars and go NGC 253-hunting!
For me as a lover of great galaxy photographs, NGC 253 is relatively non-photogenic in pictures. It doesn't show an obvious central dust lane like NGC 1032
. It doesn't show a fat bulge like M104
. It doesn't show an obvious bar like NGC 7741
. It doesn't show a fantastic ring like M94
. It doesn't show splendid spiral arms like NGC 2857
. It doesn't show a great outflow of gas from its center like another nearby starburst galaxy, M82
. To me it looks mostly oval and chaotic.
But lucky you if you live in the southern hemisphere and haven't seen it yet in the skies above you!