As someone who is interested in astronomy, I am awestruck by image captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope of the distant galaxy, ESO 300-16. This stunning celestial object is located 28.7 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Eridanus and looks like a sparkling cloud due to its assemblage of stars. When I gaze at this image, I cannot help but feel inspired by the mysterious depths of the universe and its myriad wonders.
ESO 300-16 is one of the galaxies that have been observed in detail by Hubble to measure their distances and to identify their brightest stars. The task of getting to know these galaxies that lie within 10 megaparsecs of Earth has been a challenging one, and astronomers have used gaps in Hubble’s schedule to observe the remaining quarter of nearby galaxies.
But what is a megaparsec? It is a unit used by astronomers to measure very large distances in the universe, equal to one million parsecs. Parallax is a small shift that stars appear to display against very distant stars due to Earth’s motion around the Sun. It is measured in angular units, such as degrees, minutes, and seconds, and one parsec is equal to one arcsecond or 3.26 light-years or 30.9 trillion kilometres.
I find it amazing how astronomers are able to calculate these incredibly large distances and gain insight into our galactic neighbours, such as ESO 300-16. By studying these galaxies, we can learn more about our place in the universe and explore its many mysteries. I hope that more stunning images of galaxies like ESO 300-16 will be captured by telescopes like Hubble, providing us with a glimpse into the awe-inspiring universe beyond our planet’s boundaries.