Glitter galaxy through Hubble's eye

Dec 03, 2012
Galaxy ESO 318-13. Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA

(Phys.org)—The brilliant cascade of stars through the middle of this image is the galaxy ESO 318-13 as seen by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Despite being millions of light-years from Earth, the stars captured in this image are so bright and clear you could almost attempt to count them.

Although ESO 318-13 is the main event in this image, it is sandwiched between a vast collection of bright . Several stars near and far dazzle in comparison to the neat dusting contained within the galaxy.

One that particularly stands out is near the centre of the image, and looks like an extremely bright star located within the galaxy. This is, however, a trick of perspective. The star is actually in the Milky Way, our own Galaxy, and it shines so brightly because it is so much closer to us than ESO 318-13.

There are also a number of tiny glowing discs scattered throughout the frame that are more distant galaxies. In the top right corner, an can be clearly seen, a galaxy which is much larger but more distant than ESO 318-13.

More interestingly, peeking through ESO 318-13, near the right-hand edge of the image, is a distant spiral galaxy.

Galaxies are largely empty space – the stars within them only take up a small volume. Providing a galaxy is not too dusty, it can be largely transparent to light coming from the background. This makes overlapping galaxies like these quite common.

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User comments : 2

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gromm1t2
not rated yet Jan 24, 2013
Still, why can we see individual stars in this galaxy? Is it closer than Andromeda or is lensing occurring or something else?
yyz
not rated yet Jan 24, 2013
"why can we see individual stars in this galaxy?"

This small galaxy is a member of the M 83 galaxy group which, although more distant that the Andromeda Galaxy, still lies close enough for Hubble to resolve its brightest stars. NASA's Extragalactic Database(NED) gives the distance to ESO 318-13 as ~6.8 Mpc (the distance to Andromeda is ~780 kpc for comparison).

Remember too that most of the stars in this galaxy (dwarfs and subdwarfs) are too faint to see in this image.

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