IC 342 resides approximately 8.9 million light-years away in the constellation of Camelopardalis.

This Hubble image shows IC 342, a spiral galaxy 8.9 million light-years away in the constellation of Camelopardalis. Image credit: NASA / ESA / Hubble / P. Sell, University of Florida / P. Kaaret, University of Iowa / G. Kober, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center / Catholic University of America.

IC 342 was discovered in 1892 by the British astronomer William Frederick Denning.

Also known as UGC 2847, LEDA 13826 and Caldwell 5, it is one of the brightest galaxies in the IC 342/Maffei group.

Although IC 342 is bright, it sits near the equator of the Milky Way’s disk, where the sky is thick with glowing cosmic gas, bright stars, and dark, obscuring dust.

In order for astronomers to see its intricate spiral structure, they must gaze through a large amount of material contained within the Milky Way.

As a result IC 342 is relatively difficult to spot and image, giving rise to its intriguing nickname: the ‘Hidden Galaxy.’

“Despite its relatively bright 8.4 magnitude, this galaxy doesn’t stand out in the sky,” Hubble astronomers said.

“It appears near the equator of the Milky Way’s pearly disk, which is crowded with thick cosmic gas, dark dust, and glowing stars that all obscure our view. This has earned IC 342 the nickname of the Hidden Galaxy.”

“Were it not obscured by so much interstellar matter, the Hidden Galaxy would be one of the brightest galaxies in our sky,” they added.

“A relatively close galaxy, it is roughly 50,000 light-years across and billions of years old.”

The sparkling, face-on view of IC 342’s center displays intertwined tendrils of dust in spectacular arms that wrap around a brilliant core of hot gas and stars.

“This core is a specific type of region called an H II nucleus — an area of atomic hydrogen that has become ionized,” the researchers said.

“Such regions are energetic birthplaces of stars where thousands of stars can form over a couple million years.”

“Each young, extremely hot, blue star emits ultraviolet light, further ionizing the surrounding hydrogen.”

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