Image credit & copyright: NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.
Here’s a beautiful and interesting image from the Hubble Space Telescope of a pair of overlapping galaxies cataloged as 2MASX J00482185-2507365 but don’t let the boring name fool you because this duo is actually pretty cool.
For starters, this pair is a little counterintuitive because the small spiral galaxy is actually in front of the large galaxy. In countless images we’ve seen smaller galaxies in the distance behind larger, closer counterparts but not in this case. The larger galaxy dwarfs the smaller galaxy as it’s about 10 times its size. The exact distance between the two objects is unknown but it’s believed that they are far enough apart to where there’s no interaction between them.
Another amazing aspect to this image is the fact that the background galaxy illuminates the smaller galaxy which allows us to see the skeleton of the dust lanes as they extend out well past what we would normally see on the dark background of space.
Here’s the kicker to this entire image for. Typically, when we view images of galaxies they are full of stars because we have to look past the screen of stars in our own Milky Way galaxy to view out into the universe. Well the stars seen in this image are from NGC 253, a galaxy 12 million light years away. The galaxy itself is to the right, just out of frame and I’ll add the post I wrote about it below. That means the galaxies we’re seeing must be very far away, and they are; how about 780 million light years away to be precise. Think about that for a moment. This light that was captured by the legendary Hubble Space Telescope left those galaxies nearly 300 million years before life on Earth even appeared on land. Today, in real time these galaxies are certainly no longer overlapping and they are nowhere near the location that we see them in on our night sky.
NAME: 2MASX J00482185-2507365
WHAT IS IT?: Large spiral galaxy with a smaller spiral galaxy in front of it
HOW FAR AWAY IS IT?: 780 million light years.
HOW BIG IS IT?: Unsure but background galaxy is about 10 times bigger then she foreground galaxy.
APPARENT MAGNITUDE: N/A
WHERE IS IT? (General): Constellation Sculptor (The Whale).
WHERE IS IT? (Exact RA/Dec J2000): R.A. 00h 48m 19s.59 / Dec. -25° 08′ 51″.2.
Hubblesite News Center page for this image: http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2008/33/image/a/
My blog post on NGC 253: https://danspace77.com/2014/07/29/ngc253-sculptor-galaxy-zoom-1-2/