NASA Has Catalogued Thousands Of Galaxies' Distances

Posted: Jan 8 2017, 11:42pm CST | by , Updated: Jan 8 2017, 11:48pm CST, in News | Latest Science News

 
NASA has Catalogued Thousands of Galaxies' Distances
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The database will help astronomers figure out the true distances to tens of thousands of galaxies beyond our own Milky Way

NASA researchers have compiled a vast catalog that will help astronomers gauge the distance of tens of thousands of galaxies beyond Milky Way.

The catalog, called NED-D, will not only assist determining the true distance of a galaxy but also help researchers calculate how big the universe is and how fast it is expanding. The catalog is a part of the NASA/IPAC Extragalactic Database (NED), a comprehensive online database containing details of millions of objects outside the Milky Way galaxy.

In 2006, NASA researchers have started to compile this special catalog. A decade later, it contains more than 166,000 distance estimates for more than 77,000 galaxies.

"We're thrilled to present this catalog of distances to galaxies as a valuable resource to the astronomical community," said Ian Steer, NED team member and curator of NED-D “Learning a cosmic object's distance is key to understanding its properties.”

Galaxies are located millions of light years away from us. To calculate how far away a distant galaxy is, researchers observe the brightness of objects close to it. This is done in the same way as we estimate the distance to an oncoming car by the brightness of its headlights. For instance, stars can help measure the distance to galaxies 300 million light years away. If a galaxy is too far away, astronomers can use other extremely bright objects, such as Type La supernovae as indicator of distance. The cosmological redshift is the key here. Most distant galaxies in the universe appears to be getting further away from Earth because their light had to travel longer through the expanding space to reach our telescopes.

As the catalog grows, astronomers will rely on it more for addressing the key questions about a galaxy in particular and the universe in general.

“NED and its associated databases, including NED-D, are in the process of transforming from data look-up services to legitimate discovery engines for science," said Steer. "Using NED today, astronomers can sift through mountains of 'big data' and discover additional new and amazing perspectives on our universe."

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