The Sombrero galaxy, Messier 104 (M104). The galaxy's hallmark is a brilliant white, bulbous core encircled by the thick dust lanes comprising the spiral structure of the galaxy. As seen from Earth, the galaxy is tilted nearly edge-on. We view it from just six degrees north of its equatorial plane. This brilliant galaxy was named the Sombrero because of its resemblance to the broad rim and high-topped Mexican hat. At a relatively bright magnitude of +8, M104 is just beyond the limit of naked-eye visibility and is easily seen through small telescopes. The Sombrero lies at the southern edge of the rich Virgo cluster of galaxies and is one of the most massive objects in that group, equivalent to 800 billion suns. The galaxy is 50,000 light-years across and is located 28 million light-years from Earth.
(NASA/ESA and The Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA)
I wish you all a Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noël, and Fröhliche Weihnachten, and a wish for Peace on Earth in the New Year.
When the white stars talk together like sisters
And when the winter hills
Raise their grand semblance in the freezing night,
Somewhere one window
Bleeds like the brown eye of an open forge.
White stars that stand above the eastern stable,
Look down and offer Him
The dim adoring light of your belief,
Whose small Heart bleeds with infinite fire.
Shall not this Child
(When we shall hear the bells of His amazing voice)
Conquer the winter of our hateful century?
And when His lady Mother leans upon the crib,
Lo, with what rapiers
Those two loves fence and flame their brilliancy!
Here in this straw lie planned the fires
That will melt all of our sufferings:
He is our Lamb, our holocaust!
And one by one the shepherds, with their snowy feet,
Stamp and shake out their hats upon the stable dirt,
And one by one kneel down to look upon their Life.
-Thomas Merton, "A Christmas Card", Figures for and Apocalypse, p. 79