Sunday, March 09, 2008

'Round the Sombrero

From the Hubble Space telescope image of the Sombrero Galaxy there are some kool things in the background:

This is the area around the two bright stars above and to the right of the Sombrero Galaxy. Here we have a white and blue star in the Milky Way galaxy somewhat close to Earth. Near the right star, looking like fighter planes, are two edge-on spiral galaxies that are so far out they barely register on the image. Given that the Sombrero Galaxy is 28 million light years from Earth, you can imagine how far out these spiral galaxies are from us. Yoinks. Also notice the two kool star pairs. Are they actual binary stars or optical doubles? Me dunno. Now look at these bizarre things:

These are the two tiny white dots at the bottom and slightly to the left center of the Sombrero Galaxy. When examined on the massive (11,000 x 7,000 pixel) full resolution Hubble image, they look like two perfectly matched spiral galaxies side by side and "holding hands." At first I thought this was an image artifact, ie. somehow the spiral galaxy got doubled when the Hubble image was prepared, but the Spitzer Space telescope image shows both of them as well, in infrared. It would be great to get Hubble to do a close-up of these two. I find it unbelievable that Nature "allowed" two spirals of the exact same size, shape and orientation to become next to each other in this way. The fullres Hubble image nicely displays the swarm of globular star clusters orbiting the Sombrero Galaxy. Here's a huge one where the individual stars can actually be seen:

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