The Sombrero Galaxy's Split Personality
Ssc2012 06a

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Observation • April 24th, 2012 • ssc2012-06a


'The infrared vision of NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed that the Sombrero galaxy -- named after its appearance in visible light to a wide-brimmed hat -- is in fact two galaxies in one. It is a large elliptical galaxy (blue-green) with a thin disk galaxy (partly seen in red) embedded within. Previous visible-light images led astronomers to believe the Sombrero was simply a regular flat disk galaxy.

Spitzer's infrared view highlights the stars and dust. The starlight detected at 3.5 and 4.6 microns is represented in blue-green while the dust detected at 8.0 microns appears red. This image allowed astronomers to sample the full population of stars in the galaxy, in addition to its structure.

The flat disk within the galaxy is made up of two portions. The inner disk is composed almost entirely of stars, with no dust. Beyond this is a slight gap, then an outer ring of intermingled dust and stars, seen here in red.

About the Object

Sombrero GalaxyMessier 104M104NGC 4594
Galaxy > Type > Elliptical
Galaxy > Type > Lenticular
Galaxy > Component > Ring
Galaxy > Type > Ring
28,000,000 Light Years

Color Mapping

Band Wavelength Telescope
Infrared 3.6 µm Spitzer IRAC
Infrared 4.5 µm Spitzer IRAC
Infrared 8.0 µm Spitzer IRAC


Position (J2000)
RA =12h 39m 59.5s
Dec = -11° 37' 22.2"
Field of View
12.3 x 15.0 arcminutes
North is 22.3° right of vertical