NGC 55, an edge-on galaxy in the Sculptor Group
AAO image reference AAT 102.    « Previous || Next »

NGC 55, an edge-on galaxy in the Sculptor Group, ngc55.jpg
Top left is NE. Image width is about 26 arc min
Image and text © 1993-2010, Australian Astronomical Observatory, photograph by David Malin.

The nearest galaxy to the Milky Way is the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), which we see from a distance of 170,000 light years. It is inclined to our line of sight by about 40 degrees. Magellanic-type galaxies are quite rare, so we are lucky to have such a close view of such an unusual specimen. For purely statistical reasons edge-on galaxies are also rare, so we are especially fortunate to have in NGC 55 an example of a Magellanic-type galaxy seen edge-on which is also nearby.

NGC 55 is at a distance of about 5 million light years, in the direction of the constellation of Sculptor. It is close enough for us to see it resolved into individual stars. With a big telescope like the AAT, the central regions look very much like the Milky Way seen with an ordinary camera. NGC 55 is a member of the Sculptor group, where the galaxies are few in number and well separated in space. It is probably for this reason that NGC 55 is not rich in star forming regions, because it is not interacting with any nearby companion galaxy, unlike the LMC, which is stirred up by interactions with both the Milky Way and the Small Magellanic Cloud.

Related Images
n0055_d  NGC 55, deep image
Constellation of Sculptor (external site)

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Updated by David Malin, 2010, August 1