Galactic Misconceptions: The Illusion of Closeness in Deep Space

Stargazer Daily
3 Min Read
credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

Description of Image: A group of galaxies can be seen in this image. On the left side, there is a prominent spiral galaxy with rounded arms, accompanied by a smaller, yet elaborately detailed spiral galaxy positioned behind its left arm and another smaller spiral galaxy over it. On the right side, there is a 4th spiral galaxy that shows up round when watched from the front. Between, a solitary bright star is located. The background is embellished with many stars and distant galaxies.

In this week’s Hubble Image, there is a collection of spiral galaxies On the right side, there is a significant large spiral galaxies called NGC 1356. Positioned over it, there are two relatively smaller spiral galaxies called LEDA 467699. And on its left side, there is LEDA 95415. Lastly, along the left side of the photo, there is IC 1947.

This image showcases the difficulty in determining the closeness of galaxies to each other, as our point of view can be misleading. At first glimpse, it shows up that NGC 1356, LEDA 467699, and LEDA 95415 are neighboring galaxies, while IC 1947 is farther awya. Nevertheless, this image just presents the angular separation of these objects, or exactly how they are dispersed across the celestial sphere. It can not communicate their actual distance from Earth, which is important in establishing their real distance to each other.

While NGC 1356 and LEDA 95415 appear to be near, they are really seperated by a significant distance. NGC 1356 is approximately 550 million light-years from Earth, wherease LEDA 95415 is around 840 million light-years away, leading to a variation of nearly 300 million light-years in between the two. Consequently, LEDA 95415 is not as small in comparison to NGC 1356 as it seems.

While NGC 1356 and IC 1947 seem significantly distant from each other in this image, IC 1947 is in fact just about 500 million light-years away from Earth. Despite of their viewed separation, they are really much closer per various other in three-dimensional space, with an angular range of less than four hundred thousand light-years between them. In contrast, NGC 1356 and LEDA 95415 are much further apart, with a range of numerous billion light-years.

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