First of all, how awesome of a name is 2MASX J00482185-2507365 (hopefully you feel the sarcasm)? I’d prefer Schwarzenegger and DeVito. Anyhow, this intriguing galaxy resides in the constellation Sculptor and at a distance of about 780 million light years so to say we’re looking back at ancient history is an understatement. It’s probably fair to say that most of the stars in this 100,000 light year wide spiral galaxy (similar to the Milky Way) either don’t exist anymore and or are growing very old in their lives. That sadly goes for any intelligent life that may happen to be in this image as well unless they’ve convinced their governments to become space fairing long ago. Or perhaps, tragically, they’ve only made it to the almost irrelevant distance of their moon before they stopped progressing to spend their money elsewhere (again, there’s sarcasm in there).
Clear in this image is also a large blob that appears to be resemble a rather large satellite galaxy similar to the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds (LMC & SMC) of the Milky Way just much bigger than the both of them combined. From ground telescopes, the blob couldn’t be distinguished from the disk of the galaxy but when attacked with Hubble’s Advanced Camera (ACS) we can now see that this object is a tiny foreground galaxy. A tiny oasis in the blackness of the universe that just happens to sit in the line of sight to the galaxy beyond. It’s close enough to the background galaxy to be too tough to determine an exact distance but at the same time, it’s far enough away so that the larger background galaxy isn’t disturbing its structure.
This little galaxy, which, may very well have been eaten by the background galaxy by now in real time blocks our view of a portion of its larger neighbor. But in being a better door than window it actually gives us a chance to see something in optical light that we don’t usually get a chance to see. In the outlying regions of the small galaxy, out past the star formation areas you can see a vast plane of gas and dust, completely calm and void of star formation.
NAME: 2MASX J00482185-2507365.
WHAT IS IT?: Overlapping (line of sight) galaxies.
HOW BIG IS IT?: Large galaxy is roughly 100,000 light years in diameter while the small galaxy is roughly 30,000 light years in diameter.
HOW FAR AWAY IS IT?: 780 million light years for the background galaxy and roughly 700 million light years for the small foreground galaxy.
WHERE IS IT? (General): Constellation Sculptor.
WHERE IS IT? (Exact RA/DEC J2000): RA 00h 48m 19s.59 / DEC -25° 08′ 51″.2.
NASA Hubble News Center page for this image: http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2008/33/
NASA Hubble Site page for this image: http://hubblesite.org/gallery/album/galaxy/pr2008033a/
Hubble Heritage release for this image: http://heritage.stsci.edu/2008/33/
SIMBAD data page for these objects: http://simbad.u-strasbg.fr/simbad/sim-id?Ident=2MASX+J00482185-2507365