Space Saturday I

Today I am going to introduce a new feature to my blog: Space Saturday. I realized I haven’t done too much science stuff lately and thought I could get back into it by posting a different space picture every Saturday. Without further ado, I give you Space Saturday I.

This is the Sombrero Galaxy also known as M104. This spiral galaxy is in the constellation Virgo. Earth’s view of the galaxy is nearly straight on and a band of dust in the line of sight of the galactic plane obscures some of the disc and core. The combination of the large central bulge and dust lane make this galaxy look somewhat like a sombrero.

Space Saturday Archive


Categories: Blogging, Science
  1. July 17th, 2005 at 04:31 | #1

    Thanks for that pic and the links to many more pics - in particular the amateur images. What bothers me a little about some of these space pics is the way they have often been titillated so that they look better/clearer/whatever because I am left wondering what was the real picture and are they putting in or emphasising some bits to the detriment of other aspects.

  2. July 17th, 2005 at 05:57 | #2

    Why is it, if that is indeed a galaxy, that you can see even more distant and obviously much larger stars through it’s background? Interesting…

  3. July 17th, 2005 at 09:52 | #3

    Thanks Dorin and GBlagg for the comments. I agree that it is great to see different images some of which have been taken by amateurs. It is true that many of the professional images will be altered. Usually this alteration isn’t to clear the image necessarily and they try not to make it about aesthetics (although they do have that in mind). That problem with some pictures is that if they are not altered, they usually don’t look like much (this is most often true in the case of nebulas). What is usually done is that filters are used to highlight particular features (Hydrogen, for example, is given a red color). It is not that the nebulas lack beauty, it is that the photographs use filters to make the beauty more obvious.

    GBlagg that is a great question that comes up all the time. What makes you assume that the larger / brighter stars are more distant? What makes you assume they are stars? Lets say you hold a dime a foot away from you, it will have a certain apparent size to you, right? Well lets say someone holds a trashcan lid 30 feet away (or something like that). From your position that trashcan lid might appear to be the same size of the dime, right? Eventhough the lid is actually much larger, from yourperspective it looks just the same size as your tiny dime.

    Here is the situation. Our star, the sun, is sitting in the plane of the milky way about 3/4 of the way from the center. There are stars “above”, “below”, “behind” and “in front” of us (I use quotes because those terms are relative. Let me use a diagram (taken from the ESA’s webpage):
    Our earth is nested in the midst of thousands upon thousands of stars and in order to look out of our galaxy we must look through all the “stuff” around us. But as with the dime and trashcan example, an object will appear larger the closer it is to you. The stars in our “neighborhood” will appear larger (and brigheter sometimes) that a very distant object such as a galaxy. Another thing to note is that if we are looking straight out of the galaxy (perpindicular to the plane) there will be fewer stars in the field than if we looked down a path that was closer to the center of the galaxy because as our path turns towards the center the amount of “stuff” that we have to look through increases.

    This was kind of a long winded explanation to simply say that the other stars in the field that you see are merely stars that are closer to us and have essentially “gotten in the way”. Another side comment, it is possible that some of the “stars” that you see are in fact actaully more distant galaxies.

    I hope that helps, please let me know if it doesn’t or if you have other questions!

  4. July 17th, 2005 at 12:25 | #4

    Makes sense. Looking at the photo again this does appear to be the case. Thanks.

  5. July 17th, 2005 at 19:50 | #5

    That looks bizarrely like a UFO…do you think there really are UFO’s?

  6. July 17th, 2005 at 20:10 | #6

    At first I was astonished that the Sombrero Galaxy was on the shore of a peaceful-looking lake. Then I figured out it was your background peeking through. Nice effect that made. Thanks for the photo!

  7. July 17th, 2005 at 21:01 | #7

    UFO’s? If they do exist, they have never been seen here. I think it is perfectly possible that God created life elsewhere in this giant universe, but we have not actually seen any evidence of it (not surprisingly).

    Yeah, the transparency thing has a bit of a bug. I am just messing around with it and figuging it out. It works for the most part except that it makes the images translucent too, not sure how to fix it yet. But it still works. ;)

  8. Tasha
    December 15th, 2010 at 16:06 | #8

    umm i don’t really know if this really counts as a short question that can be answered but i have a project due sometime on galaxies and i really don’t know at all what to say but how many galaxies known actually have a name? and what are the names if i might ask????

  9. December 15th, 2010 at 23:35 | #9

    I have no idea how many galaxies have names. Many do but many galaxies that have been discovered just have catalog number (something like IGC or UGC etc.). Thousands upon thousands of galaxies have been discovered though. While Wikipedia isn’t really a great source for research, it is a good place to start and they have a decent list of galaxies.

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