19 July 2019

The vastness

The photo above (taken by the Hubble space telescope) is of NGC 3147, a typical spiral galaxy considered a fairly close neighbor of our own galaxy, being only 130 million light-years away.

To get a sense of how far that is, consider this.  Light travels at 186,282 miles per second, so that, for example, it takes one and a quarter seconds to cover the distance from the Moon to the Earth.

When the light that formed the above image left NGC 3147, the Tyrannosaurus rex did not yet exist on Earth.  By the time the T-rex evolved, that light had already been traveling through space toward us for almost fifty million years, and still had eighty million years to go before reaching the Hubble telescope.

That light was only halfway along its journey here when the K/T meteor impact wiped out the dinosaurs and cleared the stage for the age of mammals.

The New Horizons space probe, moving faster than a bullet, took nine and a half years to travel from Earth to Pluto, the outermost (known) planet of our solar system.  NGC 3147 is more than two hundred billion times further away than Pluto.

Yet by intergalactic standards, it's considered a close neighbor.

[Image found via Hackwhackers.]


Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

A close neighbor M
This fascinates me. It also makes me question the utter disregard this administration has for science and anything related t it that is not related to a photo op.

19 July, 2019 03:10  
Blogger Mary said...

The thing that blows my mind is the amount of galaxies beyond our seeable portion of universe and the fact, with expansion, we may never see. And future generations, if by odd chance we are still here, they will actually see less due to expansion. If I understand correctly, in time we will only be able to see our local group of galaxies and no more. The night sky will become darker...

19 July, 2019 05:09  
Blogger Nan said...

Essentially, we don't even know if that galaxy still exists!

19 July, 2019 15:49  
Blogger Adam said...

And yet Christians think the universe is 6000-ish years old.

19 July, 2019 15:57  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Sixpence: Since Trump can't build a hotel in NGC 3147 or deport anybody to it, it's a safe bet that he doesn't care about it. Since he recently seemed to say that the Moon was part of Mars, his grasp of astronomy must be pretty vague.

Mary: If that comes to pass, it will be many billions of years from now. If humanity exists that long, no doubt our capabilities will be much greater.

Nan: Strictly speaking, we don't. But if there's anything capable of demolishing a whole galaxy, I'm glad it's that far away.

Adam: Well, that kind of Christians also believe that we're all cursed because a talking snake persuaded a woman made from a rib to eat fruit from a magic tree. They're pretty much hopeless.

19 July, 2019 16:28  
Blogger RO said...

My goodness, this is quite fascinating! Hugs, RO

22 July, 2019 02:56  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Thanks! The universe is seriously big, almost beyond comprehension.

23 July, 2019 02:08  

Post a Comment

<< Home