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Thanks to its proximity to Earth — it sits at a distance of around 44 million light-years from us, placing it within the Milky Way’s cosmic neighborhood — NGC 5949 is a perfect target for astronomers to study dwarf galaxies. With a mass of about a hundredth that of the Milky Way, NGC 5949 is a relatively bulky example of a dwarf galaxy. Its classification as a dwarf is due to its relatively small number of constituent stars, but the galaxy’s loosely-bound spiral arms also place it in the category of barred spirals. This structure is just visible in this Hubble Space Telescope image, which shows the galaxy as a bright yet ill-defined pinwheel. Despite its small proportions, NGC 5949’s proximity has meant that its light can be picked up by fairly small telescopes, something that facilitated its discovery by the astronomer William Herschel in 1801. Credit: ESA/NASA
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