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Silver Needle Galaxy

C26, NGC 4244

A spiral galaxy that falls within the western parts of Canes Venatici, in the region where that constellation meets Ursa Major in the northern sky. Though of spiral form, this galaxy is oriented to that it is seen almost exactly edge-on from Earth, and so the structure of its spiral arms cannot be directly seen. Instead its arms appear as narrow tapering lines extending from a bright galactic core, reaching out to terminate in sharp needle-like points that give the galaxy its name.

The Silver Needle is part of the Canes Venatici I Group (also called the M94 Group), a small group of galaxies that neigbours the Milky Way's own Local Group. This is one the closer members of the group, lying just 6.5 million light years from the Milky Way (or about three times the distance to the Andromeda Galaxy, which makes it a near neighbour in cosmic terms).

The Silver Needle Galaxy is not to be confused with an object known simply as the Needle Galaxy, C38. That object is another spiral galaxy seen edge-on from Earth, and so presents the same narrow, tapering needle shape. The two galaxies are otherwise unrelated, and indeed the Needle Galaxy lies much farther away than the Silver Needle, at a distance of approximately 39 million light years in the direction of Coma Berenices. Nor is the Silver Needle to be confused with the Silver Sliver Galaxy, C23, another more distant edge-on galaxy in Andromeda.


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