Image of the Day: Stunning Island Universe Begs the Question: “Are We Alone?”

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This gorgeous island universe  just begs the question: "are we alone?" With an estimated 100 billion galaxies in the Universe, we think not. Well, perhaps in the Milky Way. NGC 7331, 50 million light-years distant in the northern constellation Pegasus, is often touted as a twin spiral analog to our Galaxy. NGC 7331 was recognized early on as a spiral nebula and is actually one of the brighter galaxies not included in Charles Messier's famous 18th century catalog. 

Since the galaxy's disk is inclined to our line-of-sight, long telescopic exposures often result in an image that evokes a strong sense of depth. The effect is further enhanced in this well-framed view by the galaxies that lie beyond. The background galaxies are about one tenth the apparent size of NGC 7331 and so lie roughly ten times farther away.

Image credit: Vicent Peris (OAUV/CAHA/PTeam)

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