Gorgeous image of Messier 106 snapped using the Nicholas U. Mayall telescope

It's hard for anyone who's never looked through a large professional telescope to understand how you can get detailed views of such extremely distant galaxies and celestial bodies. Astronomers have shared a new image of galaxy Messier 106 that is breathtakingly beautiful and detailed. The images were taken using the Nicholas U. Mayall four-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory.

The highly detailed image shows the glowing spiral arm and wisps of gas and dust lanes at the galaxy's core, along with the twisting bands of stars at its outer edge. Messier 106 is broad enough in the sky that it can be viewed using a small telescope, making it a popular target for amateur astronomers. Messier 106 is located in the constellation Canes Venatici.

Astronomers say that the galaxy is similar in size and luminosity to the Andromeda galaxy. However, Messier 106 is about ten times further away at more than 20 million light-years from Earth. Messier 106 measures more than 130,000 light-years from edge to edge.

The vast distance from Earth is the reason we're able to image the entire galaxy. Astronomers say if it was visible to the naked eye, it would be less than a penny's width held at arm's length. The supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy is unusually energetic and is about 40 million times as massive as the Sun.

The supermassive black hole consumes vast amounts of gas and dust from the surrounding disk of gas, stirring up lots of material. That process created the bright, red streamers of gas that emanate from the heart of the galaxy visible in the center of the image. The image also shows a pair of dwarf galaxies that belong to the same galactic group as Messier 106.