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Stephan’s Quintet

14 Dec 2018, 19:21 UTC
Stephan’s Quintet
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The constellation Pegasus features a cluster of five galaxies whose violent interactions with each other have intrigued scientists for years. Known as Stephan’s Quintet, this galactic gathering is also a favored target of astrophotographers, but its greatest claim to fame is a cameo role in one of the most beloved and inspirational movies of all time.
Image credit: NASA
French astronomer Edouard Stephan discovered this eponymous cluster in 1877 at the Marseille Observatory in France. Scientists later classified it as a compact galaxy cluster, a group defined by its compactness, remoteness from other galaxies, and limited variability of brightness among its members. Stephan detected five visually adjacent members, though we know today that only four are physically associated and interacting. In 1982, Canadian astronomer Paul Hickson designated these four as HCG 92 (Hickson Compact Group 92) in his catalog of compact galaxy clusters. Located at a distance of about 300 million light years, the foursome is oriented diagonally in the accompanying picture. Because of the two dimensional nature of this image, the fifth member (to the lower left of the middle pair) appears adjacent to the others; in reality, it is “only” 40 million light years away. A sixth galaxy, ...

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