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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Where and what are the galaxies?

Our galaxy, vast island of stars though it is, is only one of millions of similar galaxies scattered throughout space as far away as we can see through our telescopes. The nearest galaxies to our galaxies are two small satellite galaxies called the Magellanic clouds. They can be seen only in the southern hemisphere, and look like pieces torn out of the Milky Way. A large nearby galaxy is the Andromeda galaxy, which can be seen with the naked eye as a faint patch. It is over 2 million light – years away.

Galaxies come in many shapes. Many are spiral. Elliptical galaxies look like globular clusters of stars, and irregular galaxies such as the Magellanic Clouds have no particular structure. About a hundred million galaxies can be seen with the largest telescopes. Galaxies, like stars, tend to form clusters and our galaxy is one of a cluster of over tweny7 that include the Andromeda Galaxy.