The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope presents us with a captivating image of the peculiar galaxy ESO 174-1. Standing out like a solitary, ethereal cloud amidst a backdrop of radiant stars, this highly irregular galaxy captivates the viewer’s attention. ESO 174-1 resides approximately 11 million light-years away from our own Milky Way and comprises a luminous cluster of stars entwined with a delicate, sinuous tendril of dusky gas and dust.
This particular image is part of a comprehensive collection of Hubble observations meticulously crafted to enhance our understanding of the neighboring galaxies that populate our cosmic vicinity. The primary objective of these observations is to unveil the characteristics of the brightest stars and fundamental properties of each known galaxy within a span of 10 megaparsecs. For context, a parsec serves as an astronomical unit employed by scientists to measure the immense distances between galaxies, and 10 megaparsecs corresponds to an astonishing 32 million light-years. To put this into perspective, consider that our nearest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri, lies at a distance of approximately 1.3 parsecs, which equates to an inconceivable 25 trillion miles (40 trillion kilometers) in everyday units of measurement.
This ambitious program, aimed at surveying our neighboring galaxies, is strategically devised to efficiently utilize the 2%–3% of Hubble’s available observation time. Instead of consecutively observing objects located in opposite regions of the sky, which would be highly inefficient, these observational initiatives, like the one that captured the image of ESO 174-1, fill in the gaps between other scheduled observations. By adopting this approach, the telescope can smoothly transition from one observation to the next while continuously amassing valuable data. These supplemental observation programs maximize the utilization of every precious minute of Hubble’s allotted observation time.