Hubble Takes Gigantic Image Of Triangulum Galaxy

Pat Wise
January 11, 2019

Measuring only 60,000 light years across, Triangulum is the smallest spiral galaxy in the group, compared to the 200,000 light years of the Andromeda Galaxy, and the Milky Way's 100,000 light-year diameter. It is made up of a whopping 665 million pixels and was created by a mosaic of 54 separate images.

Triangulum, also called Messier 33, can be spotted by lucky skywatchers without an assist from a telescope, but it looks like a smudge. The mosaic showcases the central region of the galaxy and its inner spiral arms. Astronomer Steven Bellavia, an engineer at Brookhaven National Laboratory, coincidentally sent me an image he took of the galaxy with a 71mm refracting telescope and 20 megapixel astronomy camera over the course of two hours.

"My first impression on seeing the Hubble images was, wow, that really is a lot of star formation", astronomer Julianne Dalcanton of the University of Washington in Seattle, who led the project. It also provides an fantastic view of the millions of stars that make up this galaxy. As noted on the website of the Observatory, the galaxy is the third largest object of the Local group and the most distant that can be seen with the naked eye.

The Andromeda Galaxy was mapped by Hubble in 2015, creating the sharpest and largest image of this galaxy and the largest Hubble image ever. The Triangulum Galaxy also contains two orders of magnitude less than Andromeda.

The abundance of gas clouds in the Triangulum Galaxy is precisely what drew astronomers to conduct this detailed survey.

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Aside from size and appearance, the Triangulum Galaxy also lags behind Andromeda and Milky Way in terms of the number of stars they have. What it does have, however, is a huge amount of gas and dust that allows for stars to be formed at a rapid rate of approximately one solar mass every two years.

During star formation, the clouds of gas and dust in galaxies are used to fuel growth.

As the junior member of this trio, the Triangulum Galaxy provides the valuable comparisons and contrasts that only a close companion can.

The latter is the second most luminous region of ionized hydrogen within the Local Group and it is also among the largest known star formation regions in the group.

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