How big are galaxies?

April 3, 2013 by Jason Major, Universe Today
Galaxy size comparison chart by astrophysicist Rhys Taylor.

I'm going to refrain from the initial response that comes to mind… actually, no I won't—they're really, really, really big!!!!

Ok, now that that's out of the way check out this graphic by Arecibo Rhys Taylor, which neatly illustrates the relative sizes of 25 selected using images made from NASA and ESA observation missions… including a rendering of our own surprisingly mundane at the center for comparison.

According to Taylor on his personal blog, Physicists of the Caribbean (because he works at the in Puerto Rico) "Type in ' sizes' into Google and you'll quickly find a bunch of images comparing various asteroids, putting them all next to each at the same scale. The same goes for planets and stars. Yet the results for galaxies are useless. Not only do you not get any size comparisons, but scroll down even just a page and you get images of smartphones, for crying out loud."

So to remedy that marked dearth of galactic comparisons, Taylor made his own. Which, if you share my personal aesthetics, you'll agree is quite nicely done.

"I tried to get a nice selection of well-known, interesting objects," Taylor explains. "I was also a little limited in that I needed high-resolution images which completely mapped the full extent of each object… still, I think the final selection has a decent mix, and I reckon it was a productive use of a Saturday."

And even with the dramatic comparisons above, Taylor wasn't able to accurately portray to scale one of the biggest—if not the biggest—galaxies in the : IC 1101. For an idea of how we measure up to that behemoth, he made this graphic:

Galaxy sizes including IC 1101, the largest-known galaxy. Click for a zoomable version. Credit: Rhys Taylor

That big bright blur in the center? That's IC 1101, the largest known galaxy—in this instance created by scaling up an image of M87, another supersized that just happens to be considerably closer to our own (and thus has had clearer images taken of it.) But the size is right—IC 1101 gargantuan. At an estimated 5.5 million light-years wide, over 50 Milky Ways could fit across it!

And considering it takes our Solar System about 225 million years to complete a single revolution around the Milky Way… well… yeah. Galaxies are big. Really, really, really, really big!

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Now if you'll pardon me, I need to go stop my head from spinning…

Read this and more on Rhys Taylor's blog here, and add Rhys to your awesome astronomy + circles here. And you can find out more about IC 1101 in the video below from Tony Darnell, aka DeepAstronomy:

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4 comments

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extinct
3 / 5 (4) Apr 03, 2013
"an estimated 5.5 billion light-years wide"

yeah, Jason Major or whoever wrote this article is a pretty bad reporter, since they can't even get simple facts right, but at least they know how to pack on those excessive exclamation points!!1!!1!

as a matter of fact, IC1101 is *not* an estimated 5.5 billion light-years wide. IC1101 is an estimated 5.5 million light-years wide.
Q-Star
2.6 / 5 (5) Apr 03, 2013
"an estimated 5.5 billion light-years wide"

yeah, Jason Major or whoever wrote this article is a pretty bad reporter, since they can't even get simple facts right, but at least they know how to pack on those excessive exclamation points!!1!!1!

as a matter of fact, IC1101 is *not* an estimated 5.5 billion light-years wide. IC1101 is an estimated 5.5 million light-years wide.


Yeppers, Jason dropped the ball on that one. But I'll forgive him. He usually does a very good job on Universe Today, both in the writing and the podcasts he's done.

I'm wondering if he was getting the distance and width twisted?
Lurker2358
1 / 5 (3) Apr 03, 2013

as a matter of fact, IC1101 is *not* an estimated 5.5 billion light-years wide. IC1101 is an estimated 5.5 million light-years wide.


Obviously.

I was about to point out that it couldn't be right, even though I knew nothing of the system, because nothing that big could possibly be gravitationally bound, given the Hubble Constant.

Who gets paid to write the articles on here? I could do better just from random facts I have memorized about shit.

This is ridiculous.
vidyunmaya
1 / 5 (3) Apr 03, 2013
Sub: Keep on Improving the Spirit -Astronomy to cosmology Studies.
This is an excellent approach to scaling. cosmological Index is missing.
Please do not superimpose present in-adequacy of the theories in the interest of Science Advancement.even some of the simulations could be wrong or pre-cocieved ill-logic.
Search from heart of Universe-say 100,000 lY beyond milkyway and look up and link down in Three tier -cosmic Pot Universe [Logscale Light Years]
http://www.scribd...rse-2003

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