One can only read the phrase "billions and billions" in Carl Sagan's voice (although Carl claimed he never said it but Johnny Carson certainly said it in Carl's voice, and that works for me). There is one lucky astro-imager who was able to snag the domain name Billions and Billions.com way back in 1999. He made it to pay homage to the late Dr. Sagan and what he has done with it would make him extremely proud. His name is Warren Keller and he has been able to image astonishing photos of stunning galaxies throughout the heavens, some you may have never heard of.
Here are a few dazzling island universes that will take your breath away:
The Bubble Galaxy
The Bubble Galaxy or NGC 3521 in Leo, is a flocculent (fluffy) spiral galaxy 30,000,000 light-years distance from Earth. It has a morphological classification of SAB(rs)bc, indicating that it has a trace of a barred structure at its core, a weak inner ring, and moderate to loosely wound arms. Note the subtle, outer shell of tidal debris- streams of stars torn from other galaxies that merged with NGC 3521 in the long past.
The Spanish Dancer Galaxy
NGC 1566 in Dorado is a gorgeous, intermediate spiral galaxy located some 50,000,000 light-years distance from Earth. Termed 'intermediate' because it lacks a well-defined central bar, it is also the second brightest Seyfert-type galaxy in the heavens. Seyferts actively emit strong radiation bursts from their core. The Spanish Dancer is the dominant member of The Dorado Group, a rich galactic gathering located in the southern hemisphere. Its two symmetrical outer arms are filled with an older population of blueish stars, while new stars are being birthed in the pink HII (hydrogen) knots.
The Silver Coin Galaxy
NGC 253 in Sculptor is the brightest of the Sculptor Group near the south galactic pole. This Group is the nearest neighbor of our own Local Group of galaxies. NGC 253 was discovered by Caroline Herschel on September 23, 1783 with '...an excellent small Newtonian sweeper'.
NGC 6744 in Pavo likely resembles our Milky Way, and is one of its largest and closest neighbors. At 30,000,000 light years distance, it is approximately twice the diameter of our own galaxy. Its flocculent (fluffy) arms are rife with pink, HII star forming knots.
The Topsy-Turvy Galaxy
NGC 1313 in Reticulum is a most curious barred spiral, approximately 15,000,000 light years distant. Discovered by Scottish astronomer James Dunlop in 1826, NGC 1313 is a very active starburst galaxy, characterized by numerous pink supershell nebulae, and newly formed bright blue stars along its very lopsided arms. At 50,000 ly across, this galaxy is only half the size of our own. Usually, a galaxy this 'topsy-turvy' has collided with another, but NGC 1313 is not part of a group, has no neighbors, and seems to stand alone. Notice the huge, extended galactic halo.
NGC 1398 in Fornax is a highly symmetrical and unusual looking galaxy. Discovered by Friedrich Winneke in 1868 while comet hunting, the galaxy is 65.000.000 light-years distance from Earth. It is approximately 135,000 ly in diameter, making it about thirty-five percent larger than our own Milky Way galaxy. While its loose and dim outer arms are termed as flocculent (fluffy), its inner rings are well-defined and tightly wound, even appearing rope-like near the core. Its bright central bulge features a prominent and interesting bar.
The Southern Pinwheel Galaxy
M83 in Hydra was discovered by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in 1752 at the Cape of Good Hope. At 15,000,000 light-years distance, it is one of the closest and brightest barred spirals in the sky. Large numbers of new stars are forming in The Southern Pinwheel, also designated NGC 5236. Six supernovae have been observed within this active, face-on starburst galaxy in the last century. M83 bears evidence of having cannibalized another galaxy in the distant past.
The Needle's Eye Galaxy
NGC 247 in Cetus is an intermediate spiral galaxy about 11,000,000 light years distant, and approximately 70,000 ly across. NGC 247 is nicknamed the Needle’s Eye due to the relatively vacant void that appears at left, roughly 8 o'clock on the disk. This nearly edge-on galaxy has loose, ragged arms that contain many pink HII knots, indicating active star forming regions. The Needle's Eye Galaxy is a member of the Sculptor Group- an assembly of thirteen island universes, including the Silver Coin Galaxy.
"The universe is a pretty big place. If it's just us, seems like an awful waste of space." -Carl Sagan
To see more of Warren Keller's incredible images visit his website www.billionsandbillions.com.
Several of these images were acquired by SSRO: Warren Keller, Steve Mazlin, Steve Menaker, and Jack Harvey.