A dazzling swirl of suns in the northern sky

More than 22 million light years away, NGC 6946 presents a dramatic face-on view of an intermediate size spiral galaxy some 40,000 light years across, home to roughly the same number of stars as the Milky Way. A member of the huge Virgo supercluster, NGC 6946 was discovered by William Herschel in 1798 straddling the boundaries of the constellations Cepheus and Cygnus. It is classified as a starburst galaxy because of its high rate of star formation. It’s also home to 10 supernovae observed over the past 100 years, helping it earn the nickname the “Fireworks Galaxy.”

In this image, combining data from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan‘s Subaru Telescope in Hawaii, NGC 6946 is seen through intervening clouds of interstellar gas and dust close to the galactic plane of the Milky Way.

NGC 6946. Image: NASA, ESA, STScI, R. Gendler, and the Subaru Telescope (NAOJ)