Big, bright, beautiful spiral, Messier 106
dominates this cosmic vista.
The nearly two degree wide
field of view
looks toward the well-trained constellation
Canes Venatici, near the handle of the Big Dipper.
Also known as NGC 4258, M106 is about 80,000 light-years across and
23.5 million light-years away, the largest member of the
For a far far away galaxy, the distance to M106 is well-known
in part because it can be
by tracking this galaxy's remarkable maser, or microwave laser emission.
Very rare but naturally occurring, the
is produced by water molecules in molecular clouds orbiting its
active galactic nucleus
Another prominent spiral galaxy on the scene, viewed nearly
is NGC 4217
below and right of M106.
The distance to NGC 4217 is much less well-known, estimated
to be about 60 million light-years, but the bright
stars are in the foreground, well inside our own Milky Way galaxy.