Friday, 13 January 2017

Razor sharp

How would our good old Milky Way look if we could see it edge on? Well, pretty much like the galaxy on this sketch. Its scientific denominator's NGC891 and you'll find it a real spectacle, even with modest telescopes. Just look at that impressive dust lane that runs around it like an equator and which seems to cut it in two from our point of view. High resolution images with the Hubble telescope revealed millions of filamentary patterns in these clouds of dust, away from the galactic centre. Scientists theorise that these patterns were caused by several supernova explosions, which blew all the dust and dark matter away.

Apart from its size and luminosity, this galaxy has much more in common with ours. Infrared images and a study of the dynamics of hydrogen in NGC891 have suggested the presence of a small central bar, just like our Milky Way. Imagine that somewhere inside that carbon copy of our galaxy, about halfway between the nucleus and the edge, lies in insignificant little star, around which orbits an even much more insignificant blue planet...

NGC891 is a part of a modest group that contains 7 regular and just as many dwarf galaxies, almost 30 million lightyears away from us.


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