At Scientias we regularly talk about the local group, but what actually is this?
Near the Milky Way are small satellite galaxies and larger spiral galaxies, such as the Andromeda Nebula and the Triangle Nebula. All galaxies less than five million light-years from the Milky Way belong to the Local Group and are therefore neighbors of the Milky Way.
You might think that the Milky Way is the largest galaxy in this neighborhood club, but that’s not the case. That honor goes to the Andromeda Galaxy, also called the Andromeda Galaxy. This giant is 2.5 million light-years away from Earth, but the distance is getting smaller. One day the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy will collide and merge. They then form a massive elliptical galaxy. Fortunately, this will take another 4.5 billion years, and by then our sun will have already run out of fuel, the question is whether humanity will experience this at all.
Another prominent member of the Local Group is the Triangle Nebula. This is the farthest object that can still be seen with the naked eye from the surface of the Earth. If you look at this galaxy with the naked eye, you are looking at photons that have traveled for 2.85 million years. Although the Triangle constellation can be seen from the Netherlands, you will still have to find a very dark spot this is difficult. Fortunately, space telescopes are not affected by light pollution. This week’s space image is a beautiful image of the Triangle Nebula.
The space image above – taken in 2019 using the Hubble Telescope – shows 40 billion stars. The galaxy contains a huge amount of gas and dust. Many young stars are born here.
So your local group may be surprisingly similar to your neighborhood. You have one neighbor who has a slightly larger car in the driveway, just like the Andromeda Galaxy has a bit more stars than the Milky Way. Or the reformist family with many children: this is somewhat reminiscent of the Triangle Nebula. Or those neighbors who visit you constantly and orbit around your house like space galaxies, like the Magellanic Cloud?
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