The galaxy, called Messier 104, is commonly known as the Sombrero galaxy because in visible light it resembles a broad-brimmed Mexican hat called a sombrero. The new Sombrero picture combines a recent infrared observation from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope with a well-known visible light image from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.
Spitzer adds new detail to the galaxy's bright, bulbous core and its thick, outer dust lanes. Infrared light traces the dust and makes the dark, murky ring glow brilliantly. The clumpy dust ring also becomes transparent in infrared. This allows a clear view of the inner disk of stars within the dust ring.
The Sombrero is one of the most massive objects at the southern edge of the Virgo cluster of galaxies. It is equal in size to 800 billion suns. This spiral galaxy is located 28 million light-years away and is 50,000 light-years across. Viewed from Earth, it is just six degrees away from its equatorial plane.