An Extragalactic Wonder: The Sculptor Galaxy
16 March 2014

A Hubble Space Telescope image of the central region of the nearby Sculptor Galaxy
Credit: The Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI/NASA)

The Sculptor Galaxy, also known as NGC 253, is a beautiful nearby spiral galaxy, visible in the southern constellation Sculptor. Interestingly, it is very rich in cosmic dust, an important ingredient for star formation. It is undergoing a “burst” of star formation, showing unusually high rates of star birth. Galaxies which form stars vigorously are called starburst galaxies.

NGC 253 was discovered by the British astronomer Caroline Herschel, sister of Sir William Herschel, the discoverer of the planet Uranus, in 1783.

NGC 253 is approximately 10 million light years distant. It is 70,000 light years across, significantly smaller than our Galaxy, the Milky Way, which is about 100,000 light years in diameter. It is also the largest member of a group of gravitationally-bound galaxies, known as the Sculptor Group, which is one of the nearest galaxy groups to Earth.

NGC 253’s appearance is dominated by prominent clumpy clouds of gas, dark dust clouds and clusters of bright young stars. Recent research has indicated the presence of a mighty black hole, with an estimated mass of about 5 million times the mass of the Sun, residing in the center of NGC 253.

NGC253 is considered a starburst galaxy, where stars form and explode at an unusually high rate. NGC253 is one of the brightest galaxies beyond the Local Group; 

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Aymen Mohamed Ibrahem
Senior Astronomy Specialist 


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