From the APOD: Galaxy NGC 6946 (Fireworks)

Just came across this on Digg. It comes from the Astronomy Picture of the Day site (here) where NASA posts some new astronomy related picture every day.

How awesome is this? This was photographed using the Subaru telescope at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

This is galaxy NGC 6946, otherwise known as the Fireworks galaxy.


The Fireworks galaxy is located 10 million light years from Earth and is 40,000 light years in diameter—which makes it about a third of the size of the Milky Way galaxy in which our tiny little planetary system lives.

That white powdery dust you can see in the spiral arms of the galaxy is made of of suns. Although the Fireworks galaxy is smaller than the Milky Way its density is higher so it is estimated to contain about the same number of suns as the Milky Way, which is about 300 billion. So there are 300 billion suns making up that powdery white dust.

With current space travel technology it takes about 77 years to travel one light year. Hence, should we decide to go over and have a closer look at NGC 6946 it would take us something like 770 million earth years to get there; and another 770 million to get back.