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The Universe Forum's role as part of NASA's Education Support Network concluded in September, 2009. Please visit NASA at http://nasascience.nasa.gov/ for current information about NASA's science, education, and public outreach activities.

exploring: our place in space > galaxy

Galaxies beyond ours: Andromeda.

Far beyond our own Milky Way galaxy lies the spiral galaxy Andromeda, one of our nearest neighbor galaxies. The billions of stars in this galaxy are each too faint to make out - but their combined light forms a beautiful swirl typical of many galaxies. This is probably what our own Milky Way galaxy would look like if we could take an image of it from the outside. The individual stars in this image (white dots) are part of our own Milky Way galaxy and are much closer than Andromeda.

It takes 2 million years for light from the Andromeda galaxy to reach Earth, making it the furthest object you can see with your naked eye. On a dark night, you can just make out the bright center of the galaxy. In the image above, can you see the spiral arms marked by lanes of dust?

Top: The Andromeda Galaxy is 2 million light-years from Earth. Left: Lying 11 million light-years from Earth, the galaxy Centaurus A harbors a gigantic black hole in its center. As revealed by a radio telescope (colorized so we can see them), huge jets of matter are somehow hurled by the black hole all the way out of the galaxy, at nearly the speed of light. Black holes remain one of the great mysteries of the universe.

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