What’s the closest galaxy to us?

Apart from the Milky Way of course… the answer is surprising.

Most people would probably answer the Andromeda Galaxy, but this would be totally wrong.

A little over a decade ago my school co-conducted a survey with another to detail the night sky around us.

Among many of the discoveries made in this survey was that there was something strange going on about 25,000 lightyears from Earth. The stars in that area were unusually dense.

In addition, the collection of stars was elliptical-shaped.

The incredible part?

It’s inside the Milky Way.

Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy, a small galaxy of a billion stars, is now thought to be the closest (non-Milky Way) galaxy to Earth at a mere 25,000 lightyears away from Earth.

It was likely an independent galaxy until our much larger one ate it. It’s since  been leaving a trail of stars as it orbits around the middle of the Milky Way.

This means, like the Galapagos, you’d better go there soon if you want to see what it’s like. In a few billion years its stars may all have been stolen by the gravity of the Milky Way.

(Image credit: VncntM)

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day 2015 March 4

Pillars and Jets in the Pelican Nebula

What dark structures arise from the Pelican Nebula? Visible as a bird-shaped nebula toward the constellation of a bird (Cygnus, the Swan), the Pelican Nebula is a place dotted with newly formed stars but fouled with dark dust. These smoke-sized dust grains formed in the cool atmospheres of young stars and were dispersed by stellar winds and explosions. Impressive Herbig-Haro jets are seen emitted by a star on the right that is helping to destroy the light year-long dust pillar that contains it. The featured image was scientifically-colored to emphasize light emitted by small amounts of ionized nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur in the nebula made predominantly of hydrogen and helium. The Pelican Nebula (IC 5067 and IC 5070) is about 2,000 light-years away and can be found with a small telescope to the northeast of the bright star Deneb.

anonymous asked:

Can you please explain to me the concept of light years and how in the heck we see stars that are billions of years old. Space confuses me please explain it in simple terms

Thanks for the question! When you hear the term “light year” you probably think of time, but a light year actually measures distance. On Earth we measure distance with units like feet or meters, but when you get something as far away as another planet, feet aren’t really a practical unit of measurement. Take the sun for example - it’s 93 million miles away. That’s a pretty big number! So instead, we use light years. Light years are based on how long it takes for light to travel, which is 186,000 miles per second. When you turn on the light in your room, you might say that the lightbulb is 1 light second away from the switch (it’s a lot less but when you can physically see the lightbulb it doesn’t really matter). Pluto is a bit different - you can’t just look over and see it. If we flipped a switch on Earth, it would take a bit longer for it to turn on a bulb on Pluto. For this reason, we would say that the bulb is 320 light-minutes away. That’s a bit more manageable than 93 million right? To answer your other question, since light takes time to travel, we can see light over a distance before it reaches us. If we turned on the light switch on Pluto, it would take a few minutes for the bulb to light up, even thought the switch is already flipped. Similarly, if we flipped it off, the light bulb on Pluto would remain on until the light were able to travel to the socket, and if we were to look at Pluto through a telescope, we would see the bulb stay lit until the light had time to reach it, even though the switch would be off. Similarly, when we look at stars that have exploded, the light from them hasn’t reached us yet, so when we look at them from a distance they’ll appear to still be lit, even though their “switch” has been flipped long ago. We hope this helps!

if you have any more space questions, feel free to ask us!