Deceptive neighborhood: Hubble photographs a distant galaxy and a nearby star

Astronomers working with the Hubble telescope have published a remarkable new image. It shows the bright galaxy NGC 3783 and the even brighter star HD 101274.

Galaxy NGC 3783 (Hubble photo). Source: ESA/Hubble & NASA, M. C. Bentz, D. J. V. Rosario

The galaxy photographed by Hubble is a spiral located at a distance of 130 million light-years from Earth. It is classified as a Type 1 Seyfert galaxy. This means that NGC 3783 has a bright central region, which is explained by the activity taking place in it. Hubble captured the galaxy in incredible detail — from the luminous central band to the narrow winding arms and the dust penetrating them. The center of NGC 3783 is so bright that diffraction rays radiate from it, which, as a rule, surround only stars.

NGC 3783 also gave the name to the group of the same name. Like clusters, groups are aggregations of gravitationally bound galaxies. The difference is that if clusters can contain hundreds or even thousands of galaxies, then groups usually do not exceed 50 participants.

Our Milky Way is also part of a group of galaxies known as the Local Group. It includes two other large galaxies (Andromeda and the Triangulum galaxy), as well as several dozen satellite galaxies and dwarf galaxies. NGC 3783, meanwhile, contains 47 galaxies. It also seems to be at a fairly early stage of its evolution, which makes it an interesting object to study.

Although the Hubble image focuses on the galaxy NGC 3783, the very bright object in the lower right part of the image also attracts attention. This is the star HD 101274. Due to the perspective, the star and the galaxy look like close neighbors, but this is nothing more than an illusion. In reality, HD 101274 is only 1,530 light-years from Earth, which is about 85,000 times closer than NGC 3783. This explains how one star can outshine an entire galaxy.

According to

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