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Old September 19 2010, 09:30 AM   #1
FPAlpha
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Could we see galaxies while in a spaceship?

So i was surfing around doing some link hopping and ended up on a Wiki article about galaxies.

I've always wondered that if someone would be on a spaceship moving through deep space would it be possible to see galaxy disks with your own eyes?

Imagine the final shot of Empire strikes back when Luke and Leia look out of the window and see this huge galaxy disk in front of them.

Is that physically realistic or possible? (as realistic as possible given that there are spaceships that are so far out)
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Old September 19 2010, 09:50 AM   #2
Deckerd
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Re: Could we see galaxies while in a spaceship?

I think the distances involved would still be a problem for human eyes. If you were far enough away to see the whole thing, you would probably not see very much.
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Old September 19 2010, 11:27 AM   #3
Asbo Zaprudder
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Re: Could we see galaxies while in a spaceship?

They're pretty faint unless you're just about inside one -- for example, think how the Milky Way gets washed out of the night sky by lights in towns and cities. M31, the Andromeda Galaxy is 2.5 million light years away and 3 degrees across as seen from Earth (6 time the apparent diameter of the Moon) yet it only looks like a faint smudge to the eye.
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Old September 19 2010, 03:45 PM   #4
JustAFriend
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Re: Could we see galaxies while in a spaceship?

FPAlpha wrote: View Post
Imagine the final shot of Empire strikes back when Luke and Leia look out of the window and see this huge galaxy disk in front of them.
If you were thousands of light-years outside the Milky Way in one of the globular clusters that orbit it you'd see that.

Of course you can see a galaxy disk NOW, just go out to a really really dark area and if you have reasonable vision and know where to look you can see Andromeda yourself (helps to look to the side of it and use your peripheral vision which is more sensitive than looking directly at something...)
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Old September 19 2010, 08:22 PM   #5
Owain Taggart
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Re: Could we see galaxies while in a spaceship?

You could probably see the Milky Way from a different angle than you do from Earth.
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Old September 19 2010, 09:05 PM   #6
Silvercrest
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Re: Could we see galaxies while in a spaceship?

FPAlpha wrote: View Post
Imagine the final shot of Empire strikes back when Luke and Leia look out of the window and see this huge galaxy disk in front of them.

Is that physically realistic or possible? (as realistic as possible given that there are spaceships that are so far out)
The Empire thing is not a very good example-- it's visibly rotating. Something the size of a galactic disk, at the apparent distance where Luke and Leia were viewing it, would have to be spinning faster than the speed of light to have visible rotation. So whatever they saw was not a galaxy.

I know this doesn't help answer the question. The real answer is, sure, you could see galaxies. But they wouldn't look like that.
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Old September 20 2010, 01:32 PM   #7
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Re: Could we see galaxies while in a spaceship?

JustAFriend wrote: View Post
FPAlpha wrote: View Post
Imagine the final shot of Empire strikes back when Luke and Leia look out of the window and see this huge galaxy disk in front of them.
If you were thousands of light-years outside the Milky Way in one of the globular clusters that orbit it you'd see that.
Not really. To the naked eye, it would look very faint from that distance. I mean, we're in the galaxy, but our side-on view of its disk is only as a very faint strip of light across the night sky, one that you can only see if your eyes are sufficiently dark-adapted. If it's so dim from a position directly inside it, it's not going to be brighter from thousands of parsecs away.

All those TV and movie space shots where we see starships against backdrops of brilliant, colorful nebulae and galaxies and whatnot are all bogus, because the brilliant, colorful astronomical photos they're based on are the result of very long exposure times and image enhancement to make them look prettier.

Of course, as you say, some galaxies are faintly visible to the naked eye from Earth, and they would be more clearly visible from space, without the Earth's atmosphere to absorb and scatter the light. They'd still be faint, though.



Owain Taggart wrote: View Post
You could probably see the Milky Way from a different angle than you do from Earth.
Only if you travelled thousands of light-years away from Earth. Although your best bet would be to travel perpendicular to the plane of the disk. From most anywhere within the disk, the edge-on view that the ancients named the "Milky Way" (which in Latin is Via Galactica, the origin of the word "galaxy") is going to look generally similar. But the disk is fairly flat, only around a thousand light-years thick, so you wouldn't have to travel as far in a perpendicular direction to get "above" or "below" it and see a perspective shift.
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Old September 21 2010, 09:24 PM   #8
Udat
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Re: Could we see galaxies while in a spaceship?

Great Mambo Chicken wrote: View Post
They're pretty faint unless you're just about inside one -- for example, think how the Milky Way gets washed out of the night sky by lights in towns and cities. M31, the Andromeda Galaxy is 2.5 million light years away and 3 degrees across as seen from Earth (6 time the apparent diameter of the Moon) yet it only looks like a faint smudge to the eye.

Never seen it! But I will look next time I have a chance when I`m out of town
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Old September 22 2010, 06:32 AM   #9
Asbo Zaprudder
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Re: Could we see galaxies while in a spaceship?

Udat wrote: View Post
Great Mambo Chicken wrote: View Post
They're pretty faint unless you're just about inside one -- for example, think how the Milky Way gets washed out of the night sky by lights in towns and cities. M31, the Andromeda Galaxy is 2.5 million light years away and 3 degrees across as seen from Earth (6 time the apparent diameter of the Moon) yet it only looks like a faint smudge to the eye.

Never seen it! But I will look next time I have a chance when I`m out of town
Never seen the Milky Way (and many city-bound folks haven't) or never seen M31?
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Old September 22 2010, 06:50 AM   #10
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Re: Could we see galaxies while in a spaceship?

I WANT to see Andromeda with my naked eyes so badly... I have seen the extremely faint version from my folk's home in Torrance, Cali, but I want to see it from way out in the country, where there is less light pollution.

If you were far/close enough away from the galaxy, you WOULD be able to see the whole disk, just on the basis that it's massive concentration of stars bunched together... YES, they are millions and billions of miles apart, but if you look at the night sky in a clear sky, you can see millions of stars that you don't normally see in the city. The sky looks quite full then.

So if you are far enough away, you will be able to see the disk... but yeah, you won't see it spinning.
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Old September 22 2010, 08:49 AM   #11
Asbo Zaprudder
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Re: Could we see galaxies while in a spaceship?

Even through telescopes, M31 looks like a blur to the eye and you mostly see the galactic core regions. In 1887, powerful telescopes and long photographic exposure times were first used to resolve the spiral structure in detail.

From several tens of thousands of light years above the plane of our galaxy, the arms would be relatively faint and the view would be dominated by the bright core region.

You would be able to tell the galaxy was spinning if you measured the red and blue shifts, or if your lifetime were measured in many millions of years.
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Old September 22 2010, 10:46 AM   #12
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Re: Could we see galaxies while in a spaceship?

Provided you in the shade of the spaceship, then the galaxies will be easier to see because -
1) no atmosphere to absorb / scatter the light from them
2) no light pollution to overwhelm the light from them
3) higher contrast (they will stand out more against the blackness of space).
But you are still limited by the size of the lenses in your eyes (this wont change).

Close galaxies like the Andromeda Galaxy, the Large and Small Magellianic Clouds would be very much more spectacular in space than on the ground.
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Old September 24 2010, 06:09 PM   #13
Mr_Homn
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Re: Could we see galaxies while in a spaceship?

the thing at the end of empire strikes back was not a galaxy
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Old September 24 2010, 08:50 PM   #14
Ronald Held
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Re: Could we see galaxies while in a spaceship?

"see" means in the human visual spectrum?
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Old September 24 2010, 11:22 PM   #15
KJbushway
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Re: Could we see galaxies while in a spaceship?

Deckerd wrote: View Post
I think the distances involved would still be a problem for human eyes. If you were far enough away to see the whole thing, you would probably not see very much.
Yeah i agree with what she said, it might just be to much for us even at a distance.
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