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October 2002

NGC 891 - An Edge-on Spiral Galaxy

Viewed from the edge, spiral galaxies reveal their thin disk and central bulge. From this angle, the center of the galaxy is obscured by dark dust that lies within its disk. Grains of interstellar dust is similar in size and shape to particles of smoke. In the vast quantities present in galaxy disks, it it is nearly opaque to optical light. In this extended color image, you can see a sequence of blue knots along the dark dust lane. These knots represent regions populated by massive young stars, which lie near the edges of the dust clouds.

NGC 891 lies nearly 10 million light years from us, in the direction of the constellation Andromeda. The individual stars that you see here (and in all of the galaxy images) are nearby stars that are part of our own galaxy. Stare at this image for a while and perhaps you'll begin to sense the depth in it - the galaxy lies over 10,000 times farther away than the stars shown here.