Image Credit: Martin Pugh

Not one but two beautiful galaxies occupy this region of space within the constellation of Hydra. Most prominently, we have NGC 5078: the galaxy in the bottom-left positioned nearly edge-on from our vantage point. Then, there's NGC 5101: the barred spiral galaxy pictured in the upper right-hand corner.

Both galaxies are approximately the same size as the Milky Way, or around 100,000 light-years across. While they might look super close together, they are actually separated by around 800,000 light-years. When you consider the fact that our closest large neighbor (Andromeda) is around 1.5 million light-years away from the Milky Way, the two are indeed close together (they are separated by less than half the Milky Way/Andromeda distance).

 Their actual distance is a bit speculative, as the estimates above depend on both galaxies being right around 90 million light-years from Earth. We do, however, know that they are separated by around 0.5 degrees in our night sky, approximately the apparent width of the full moon.

As an added bonus, there's actually another galaxy in play below NGC 5078; Called IC 879, it too is a spiral galaxy, though it's much dimmer than its two 'neighbors.' Evidence, like the tidal bridge that connects galaxy a to galaxy b, suggests they gravitationally interacted recently, maybe they still are. Additionally, numerous other galaxies can be seen in the background, but they are just too far away to be resolved clearly. Some of the other sources of light belong to the Milky Way itself.


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