Here’s your introduction to NGC 891, a belt-like strip of stars compressed into a spiral galaxy that is actually much like our very own Milky Way. The image here, snapped by a student at the University of Arizona’s Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, actually helps illustrate how NGC 891 is something of an evil twin to the Milky Way.

The galaxy, 30 million light-years away and stretching a whopping 100 thousand light-years in length (same as the Milky Way), is a swirling mix of stars, gasses, and planets with a large pale halo surrounding it. Scientists believe the halo might be caused by a series of supernovae explosions that eject filaments into the outer edge of the galaxy.

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Another notable feature of the NGC 891 is its dark center, which also consists of accumulated dust. The dark dust is compressed by extreme forces of gravity coming from the stellar activity, making it a dusty landscape for small worlds caught in the mix. If Earth was in this galaxy, our forecast would be cloudy all day, every day.

Galaxy NGC 891 has a striking resemblance to the Milky Way.
Galaxy NGC 891 has a striking resemblance to the Milky Way.

You can find NGC 891 in the northern night sky by looking for the constellation Andromeda, located by astronomer Claudius Ptolemy in the early 100s A.D. Andromeda was named after ancient Greek mythology’s daughter of Cassiopeia. The legend of Andromeda says the daughter was chained to a rock to be eaten by a sea monster, Cetus, but was saved by the warrior Hercules.

Photos via Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter