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Barred Spiral Galaxy M95

M95 is one of the closer examples of a big and beautiful barred spiral galaxy. Visible in the above image from the European Southern Observatory, are sprawling spiral arms delineate by open clusters of bright blue stars, lanes of dark dust, the diffuse glow of billions of faint stars, and a short bar across the galaxy center. What intrigues many astronomers, however, is the circumnuclear ring around the galaxy center visible just outside the central bar. Recent images by the Chandra X-ray Observatory have shown that X-ray light surrounding the ring is likely emission from recent supernovas. Supernova SN 2012aw occurred in 2012 in M95 about two-thirds out one of its spiral arms (see bright blue-white spot below).

Although the long term stability of the ring remains a topic of research, recent observations indicate its present brightness is at least enhanced by transient bursts of star formation. M95, also known as NGC 3351, spans about 50,000 light-years.

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