The Local Group Galaxies


By local I mean millions of lightyears away.

If you ever want to make yourself feel like the size of an amoeba, just google how many galaxies there are in space. Don’t worry I’ll wait….

See what I mean? That’s one brain exercise you won’t want to do too often. I was just trying to answer a simple question for myself (what are the nearest galaxies to planet Earth?) and immediately plunged into a black hole of craziness. Scientists don’t believe galaxies are moving away from earth because apparently galaxies are not all powerful and cannot move. They believe galaxies are quickly moving away from our planet because SPACE IS EXPANDING. And there are at least 451 galaxies that are considered near to the Milky Way Galaxy.

Mind boggling.

I now feel a little more sane. Other than the fact that there are 500 billion galaxies (give or take) I wanted to put names to faces, or rather nebulae. The group of galaxies closest to ours is called the Local Group. At first, I thought this name was to designate the elite group of mean girls that surrounds the Milky Way but realized that it was literally named just for location.

There are 36 or more galaxies in the local group (including dwarf planets). Apparently someone ran out of names for the known galaxies. It started off really well, with nods to greek mythology, the zodiac and Harry Potter (there is an Andromeda dwarf, Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy, and a Draco Dwarf among others) and then quickly got boring with more scientific and top secret government issued classifications (I’m looking at you NGC 221 better known as M 32).

Obviously if I had a personal TARDIS I could give a more accurate report of them all and rouse the space explorer in all of us, but for now relying on NASA and the Russians will have to do. It’s even more mind-boggling to think that the local group galaxies are a part of an even larger group called the Virgo Supercluster, which sounds like a place Buzz Lightyear would be saying “To infinity and beyond” to as he warped toward it.

If you ever have this question burning like a comet across your mind, these scientific papers  should satisfy your curiosity (or confuse the heck out of your brain unless you are an astrophysicist or a genius) and your attention for probably the next three months. Or, if you’re like me and don’t have the patience of said astrophysicist, you’ll probably double check the sources with this beautifully detailed Wikipedia page with tasty diagrams.

And this, friends, martians, countrymen, is how I spent my evening–nerdy, curious, and space traveling.


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