Over the course of billions of years, a new home is built. It will eventually house stars, planets and perhaps civilizations. The force of gravity and the conservation of momentum can transform a dense cloud of cold dust and gas into a menagerie of stars and myriad opportunities for life. The stuff of stars is the stuff of us.
This particular distant galactic home, NGC 1398, lives in the Fornax cluster of galaxies 65 million light-years away (or one billion round trips between New York City and Los Angeles). It is farther away from us each day, moving away at 1400 kilometers per second–over 3 million miles per hour. For comparison, the NASA space shuttle during launch only moves at 35,000 miles per hour.
At 135,000 light-years in diameter, NGC 1398 is just slightly larger than the galaxy we call home, the Milky Way. Like our home galaxy, it has come to burn with the light of a hundred million suns and who knows how many civilizations.
If you’d like to look for this southern hemisphere gem yourself, it lives at RA/DEC: (03 38.9, -26 20).
We close with a question: Who first wrote the now-famous equation that estimates the probability of life in the universe?
Spiral Galaxy NGC 0895 was discovered by William Herschel in 1785. Herschel created the first maps of the Milky Way galaxy by observing and drawing the stars. Herschel also saw galaxies outside the Milky Way, but he didn’t know what they were, so he only referred to them generically as nebulae. That was the common term at the time for diffuse, extended objects – including actual nebulae, which are the gaseous remains of exploded stars.
Galaxy NGC 0895 is located in the constellation Cetus, about 110 million light years away – still a fraction (about 0.2 percent) of the observable universe. The star nearest to us, Alpha Centauri, is 4.3 light years away, and the nearest spiral galaxy, Andromeda, is 2.5 million light years away.
We can tell how many stars are forming by how blue the galaxy appears through the camera lens. Blue galaxies contain many young, newly formed stars. The golden object in the upper right is a redder galaxy, which has many more older red stars, and fewer still forming.
If you want to find NGC 0895 yourself, it is located at coordinates (RA 02 21 36.5, Dec -05 31 16).
This image was taken with the Dark Energy Camera, and shows us this galaxy in sharper detail than we have ever seen it. Check back here every Monday for another image and another story from the Dark Detectives at DES.