Fireworks Galaxy

From our vantage point in the Milky Way Galaxy, we see NGC 6946 face-on. The big, beautiful spiral galaxy is located 22 million light-years away, behind a veil of foreground dust and stars (belonging to our own galaxy) in the constellation of Cepheus. In other words, hundreds of stars that you see in this image (including the smallest dots), these stars are from our own galaxy, at distances of up to maximum of just 25000 light years. These stars are not from Fireworks galaxy.

But this galaxy like all other galaxies is full of stars, at least a hundred billion of them. It’s just that it is so far away – 22 million light years (where each light year is 6 trillion miles or 10 trillion kilometers) that we cannot see individual stars belonging to that island of the universe from amateur telescopes. You just see those stars, dust lanes and pink nebulae as a cloud in that galaxy.

From the core outward, the galaxy’s colors change from the yellowish light of old stars in the center to young blue star clusters and reddish star forming regions along the loose, fragmented spiral arms. NGC 6946 is also bright in infrared light and rich in gas and dust, exhibiting a high star birth and death rate. In fact, since the early 20th century 10 confirmed supernovae, the death explosions of massive stars, were discovered in NGC 6946. Thus, this galaxy holds the record for having had most supernovae in last century and that’s why it’s name of Fireworks suits it, although it was named so because of the resemblance with the spinning wheel fireworks. It’s nearly 40,000 light-years across.

This galaxy was once considered to be part of the local group (a group of galaxies consisting of Milky Way, Andromeda Galaxy, M33 and a few others), but is now known to be among the dozen bright spiral galaxies near to us, but beyond the confines of the Local Group (think of them as a neighborhood in the next town).

I took this image over over 18 hours (41 images of Luminance of 20 minutes and each color of 9 images of 10 minutes each).

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