Babe Among the Stars: Ghost of Mirach

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Galaxy Babe's column banner, showing a full moon and some little folk looking up at the sky

Mortal as I am, I know that I am born for a day. But when I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth - Ptolemy

Games and ghosts

For those who like quizzes, here's an astronomy quiz provided by the New York Times.

Ghost of Mirach

NGC 404 is a dwarf galaxy which was discovered by Sir William Herschel in 1784. From our vantage point it is almost obscured by the glare of the red giant star beta Andromedae, which has the common name 'Mirach'. NGC 404 is isolated, it doesn't appear to be gravitationally bound to any group of galaxies, which is quite unusual. For a long time, astronomers had no idea how far away this object was. However, it has now been measured at a distance of 10.8 million light years, which makes it practically a neighbour of the Milky Way in galactic terms. Due to its 'hiding' behind Mirach and seeming unwillingness to divulge all its secrets, NGC 404 has earned the nickname Ghost of Mirach or Mirach's Ghost. The Ghost of Mirach appears as a fuzzy blob in this image, above and just to the right of the central star Mirach.

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