Galaxies This lesson deals with important topics relating to galaxies. Each of these topics represents a great body of knowledge and areas of interest to research.
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Radio telescopes have detected galaxies invisible to optical telescopes.
Estimates are that there are 100s of billions of galaxies in the universe.How many galaxies?
In 1923 Edwin Hubble measured the brightness of a pulsating variable star in the Andromeda galaxy, M31. The rate at which the variable star pulsed was linked to its actual brightness so he could estimate how far away it was. He discovered it was way outside the Milky Way. He then applied these measurements to other galaxies.
When Edwin Hubble looked at these other galaxies he observed that the further away the galaxy was, the faster it was moving away from us. He came to the conclusion that the universe was expanding. This was Hubble’s Law.
(The picture here is of the most distant galaxy so far observed where the variable stars called Cepheid variablesare still visible.)
The expanding universeWhen astronomers look deep into the universe they are looking back in time towards the Big Bang when the universe began.
Looking at the Milky Waythrough binoculars reveals many more stars but also faint glowing areas called nebulae meaning clouds. These are not all the same type, they may be glowing gas clouds where stars are born, as in the constellation of Orion, or the remnants of exploding stars or a distant galaxy beyond our own galaxy.
Clouds of gas obscure the view towards the centre of our galaxy, but it was suggested that our galaxy probably looked like the Andromeda galaxy, M31 and other spiral galaxies. M31 has become the most studied galaxy by astronomers over the years. In fact we probably know more about M31 than our own galaxy!The Milky Way - our own galaxy
Our own Sun is in one of the spiral arms about 1/3rd of the way in from the edge of the galaxy.
The galaxy has young stars in the flat spiral arms and a bulge in the centre.
Around the galaxy is a spherical halo of much older stars.
The halo has globular clusters of stars and contains mysterious dark matter.M100 - a galaxy similar to our own
Shapley worked out where the Earth must be in relation to these globular clusters and found that there were more in the direction of
the constellation Sagittariusthan elsewhere.
This shows that the centre of the galaxy is in
The Earth is 30,000 light years from the
centre and the galaxy is 100,000 light years
You can work this out for yourself using a
star map program which shows the clusters.How do we know where we are in our galaxy?