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Published:February 20th, 2014 13:52 EST
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope Unwraps the Mystery of Rotational Movement of a Distant Galaxy

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope Unwraps the Mystery of Rotational Movement of a Distant Galaxy

By Ron G Anselm

"Within the beauty of nature comes the fierce rage of Mother Nature. Within the beauty of the mysteries of space comes the discovery of new and wondrous things that poke our curiosities and wake-up our interests." (Anselm, R.)

NASA is ever so famous for making those last minute discoveries that when we hear about what NASA just discovered it leave us numb for a second or two until our mind snaps back to reality. NASA just discovered one of those mind-numbing moments recently by discovering the measurement of rotation rate of one of our neighboring galaxies called the Large Magellanic Cloud. This is a feat no scientist or astronomer from the past could ever accomplish.

When you look at a large galaxy in photos or pictures they consist mainly of lots of groups of stars and seem to be their own entity surrounded by lots of little other planets and stars that have a personality of their own. If you look close enough you can see all these little stars working together in movement as if they were a piece of any mechanical working part of system.

It is interesting to find out that to not only see the rotation of this galaxy but to find out it takes 250 million years to complete one rotation. As a little more tidbit of information it also takes our sun that length of time to do one rotation around the center of the Milky Way galaxy.

NASA scientist led by the Hubble team consisting of Roeland van der Marel and Nitya Kallivayalil used the Hubble space telescope to measure the average motion of hundreds of individual stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud which is located about 170,000 light-years away, This project spanned over seven years which Hubble collected data and recording the slight movements of these stars.

Nitya Kallivayalil commented on this by saying, "Studying this nearby galaxy by tracking the stars` movements gives us a better understanding of the internal structure of disk galaxies. Knowing a galaxy`s rotation rate offers insight into how a galaxy formed, and it can be used to calculate its mass." (Kallivayalil, N.)

The study of galaxies to scientists has always been more fascinating than the feel of a grand slam game winning home run in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game Seven of the World Series. Most disk-shaped galaxies like the Milky Way and the Large Magellanic Cloud normally rotate like a carousel. The Hubble telescope and its high technology attributes offer a new way to track and look at a galaxy`s movement by tracking it in a sideways motion. In the past, scientists have always measured the sideways motion of nearby celestial object. This is the first time the precision has become serious enough to be able to measure and see another distant galaxies rotational movement.

Roeland van der Marel commented on this, "The LMC is a very important galaxy because it is very near to our Milky Way. Studying the Milky Way is difficult because you`re studying from the inside, so everything you see is spread all over the sky. It`s all at different distances, and you`re sitting in the middle of it. Studying structure and rotation is much easier if you view a nearby galaxy from the outside." (van der Marel)

In the past century scientists have measured and calculated the rotation of a galaxy and any variation in the slight shifting in the spectrum of the galaxies starlight by using the Doppler Effect to measure it. On one side of a galaxy`s spinning stellar disk, the stars swinging in the direction of Earth will show a spectral blue shift -- the compression of light waves due to motion toward the observer. Stars swinging away from Earth on the opposite side of a galaxy will show a spectral redshift -- the stretching of light to redder wavelengths due to motion away from the observer. (

With the data collected by Hubble scientists were able to accurate information about the LMC rotation rate. The results also provided scientist the option to put together a three-dimensional view of the stellar motion.

Van der Marel commented on this by saying, "By using Hubble to study the stars` motions over several years, we can actually, for the first time, see a galaxy rotate in the plane of the sky," (Van der Marel)

The Hubble Space telescope is the only entity according to scientist that could ever make this type of observation and collect this type of data because of Hubble`s Sharp resolution, high-tech image stability and the length of time Hubble has been in space which total twenty-four years.

Van de Marel also commented further, "If we imagine a human on the moon, Hubble`s precision would allow us to determine the speed at which the person`s hair grows. This precision is crucial, because the apparent stellar motions are so small because of the galaxy`s distance. You can think of the LMC as a clock in the sky, on which the hands take 250 million years to make one revolution. We know the clock`s hands move, but even with Hubble we need to stare at them for several years to see any movement." (Van de Marel)

So, as the beauty of nature and the fierce demeanor of Mother Nature keep us on our toes on this planet, the beauty of the mysteries of space keep our minds wondering and our thirst for knowledge burning within our own imagination.


Hubble Watches Stars` Clockwork Motion in nearby Galaxy, ( Retrieved 2014.

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