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This photo shows NGC 7331, a spiral galaxy much like our own. However, if you look closely you'll see that three other galaxies very nearby. These are collectively known as "Stephan's Quintet" after their discoverer (French astronomer Eduoard Stephan), and each of these galaxies are no farther apart than the diameter of our own Milky Way galaxy.

Click the image to see the story.

Imagine what the night sky would look like from a planet orbiting a star within one of those galaxies. Assuming our alien protagonist had a dark-enough sky that she could see the equivalent of the Milky Way, she would see three great clouds of light similar to our Magellanic Clouds - our own little companion galaxies, much smaller and less interesting than those near NGC 7331. Except that in place of our diffuse areas of light, her sky would be filled with vast pinwheels!

Here's our Small Magellanic Cloud, by the way:

Click the image to see the story.

Best,
Chris

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Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
holyoutlaw
Oct. 2nd, 2007 05:03 am (UTC)
Lots of times I try to imagine what it would be like to have a sky where you could see some of the Hubble images with the naked eye.
mckitterick
Oct. 2nd, 2007 05:10 am (UTC)
Oh, yeah. The problem with that is that you'd likely never see precisely what the Hubble images. Like this, for example:

Click the image to see more.

The equipment uses "false color" to create such images. Now, even though it's not really "false," the human eye just isn't very good in low-light situations, so you would almost never see an image like that with your own, naked eyes.

Still, if you lived within an emission nebula, I'm guessing that you would see a damned impressive light show at night.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )