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M74

NGC 628

A spiral galaxy in the eastern parts of the constellation of Pisces, near the point where the Ecliptic passes out of that constellation and on into neighbouring Aries, a little to the east of the star Kullat Nunu (or Eta Piscium) in the sky.

M74 lies some thirty million light years from the Milky Way Galaxy, and is aligned almost perfectly face-on to an observer on Earth. This means that its spiral structure is very clearly visible: two long spiral arms stretch out from its nucleus and wind outwards around the core, and each other, to create a spiral form some 85,000 light years across. Galaxies showing a distinct and regular spiral form like this are described as 'grand design' spirals, and this galaxy is a classic example of the type.

M74 is not alone in intergalactic space: it is the most prominent member of small group of galaxies, designated the M74 Group. The exact number of galaxies in this group is uncertain, but it seems to contain no more than ten members, spreading out across the sky southward of M74 along the eastern borders of Pisces.

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