This Galaxy Surfs The Edge of Space! Tubular!

Enlarge. | Via.

NGC 6503 is a righteous galaxy. A loner, if you will. It sits far outside of the Local Cluster of galaxies, hanging out in a galactic void.

Phil Plait with the deets:

It’s on the edge of the great local void: a vast region of space where galaxies are few and far between. Galaxies tend to exist in clusters and superclusters. The Milky Way is part of the the Local Group, a small collection of a few dozen galaxies which itself sits on the outskirts of the Virgo Cluster, 60 million light years away. In the opposite (more or less) direction, toward the constellation of Draco, is the Local Void. Our galaxy is near the edge of this void, but NGC 6503 is actually further into it, 17 million light years away from us. Even then, it’s only on the void’s edge; estimates vary but the empty region extends for something like 30 — 200 million light years in that direction!

So you can picture it: on one side of us is a collection of hundreds of galaxies in the Virgo cluster, which itself is part of a much larger supercluster containing thousands of galaxies. On the other side of us is an empty region of roughly the same size. Somehow, when the Universe itself was young, the matter in this region must have all condensed toward Virgo, leaving the void nearby. We think the entire Universe is this way, with dense regions of matter surrounding bubble-like voids. If you could step back and look, the Universe might appear like a giant sponge!

Outstanding! It’s hard to conceive of giant voids of space that are inconceivably large. NGC 6503 dares to go where uh, only intergalactic eagles dare! But it must watch out as it peers into the abyss. You know what Nietzsche said about the void! Careful if you peer into it, because if you do, you may die alone in an insane asylum or whatever.

I’m paraphrasing.