Tag: UGC 12158

The Milky Way's (almost) identical twin

By Phil Plait | January 7, 2011 7:00 am

In my Top 14 Astronomy Pictures of 2010, I started off with a galaxy I called the Milky Way’s fraternal twin; it looks a lot like ours, but has some differences that were worth pointing out.

In one of those coincidences that makes me smile, only a few days later the folks at Hubble Space Telescope released another spiral galaxy image, and this one… well, it’s a beauty:

hst_ugc12158

That’s really something! It’s so pretty I made it my desktop image. Click it to see it in all its 2800 x 2400 pixel galactaliciousness.

The name of this galaxy is UGC 12158. It’s a face-on barred spiral; the bar refers to that rectangular block of stars in the center. Some spirals have a spheroidal central bulge, like Andromeda does, but quite a few have a bar-shaped hub. The Milky Way does, in fact, and observations using radio and infrared telescopes (able to pierce the dust obscuring our view) show that our bar is actually pretty hefty. The small picture here shows an illustration of the Milky Way based on these observations, and we think it’s a pretty accurate representation. The resemblance to UGC 12158 is obvious.

When I first saw this Hubble picture, I was impressed with the beauty of this galaxy I had never seen before. But then I realized something… Y’know, I have a lot of experience looking at Hubble images. I spent years working on them, and after a while you get a feel for them. It’s just practice, and you get what almost feels like instinct about some things. So when I saw this picture and I got that odd (but familiar) feeling in my head, I knew to pursue it. It didn’t take me more than a few seconds to nail it down: this galaxy is big. The size of the star images, the smoothness of the galaxy itself, the way the image feels… I just knew that this was no tiny galaxy.

So I went to the release page for it, and when I saw the distance, I was shocked: that galaxy’s not big, it’s freaking huge. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Pretty pictures
NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+