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Astr110 Photography Projects, Spring 2009

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Helix Galaxy (NGC 2685), Brandon Blakeslee

Helix Galaxy

The picture above is of the Helix Galaxy of the Ursa Major constellation. I know it doesn't look like much but trust me, it is pretty awesome. The Helix Galaxy is a polar ring lenticular galaxy, which could be just about anything. A lenticular galaxy has a rough disc shape and has used up much of its interstellar matter in star creation so in other words it has reached maturity and begun to age. The fact that it is a polar ring galaxy is interesting because what that means is that it has an extra disk shaped dust cloud which is centered at the pole and yet perpendicular to the main disk. Astronomers think that this ring is caused when another galaxy passed close to our Helix one and left some of its debris. The Helix Galaxy is a significant 40 million light years away but that should not diminish its coolness.

Unfortunately only one one dust ring is visible in this picture, although in actuality there are two. If you are doubtful of my claim I encourage you to head over to Google and find images taken from other sources. Not much color can be seen in this picture due in part to the existence of rather bright stars around the Galaxy. If you look closely you can see green, red, and blue dots all in a row; those dots are not actually part of the picture but rather glitches caused by the camera. The Helix Galaxy has an Angular size of 1.5arcminutes and an approximate linear size of 11,000 light years according to my calculations.

Robert Nemirof and Jerry Bonnell at NASA's "Picture of the Day" <http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap070216.html>.

"The Internet Encyclopedia of Science," Helix Galaxy (NGC 2685) <http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/H/Helix_Galaxy.html>

Right Ascension (J2000) 08:55:35
Declination (J2000) +58:44:02
Filters used blue(B), green(V), red(R), and clear(C)
Exposure time per filter 5x60 seconds in C, 300 seconds in BVR
Date observed

March 20, 2009 (CBVR)