NewsGalaxy Evolution

Milky Way Researchers' Home Away From Home

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Science  08 Jul 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6039, pp. 170-172
DOI: 10.1126/science.333.6039.170

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At a distance of 2.5 million light-years, Andromeda is our closest galactic neighbor comparable to the Milky Way: far enough to offer a global view and close enough for telescopes to take a good look at individual stars inside it. As such, Andromeda has come to be regarded as one of the best models available for understanding the evolution of galaxies, including our own. That's why it has acquired a dedicated fan club of astronomers who have been studying the galaxy in ever-increasing detail over the past 15 years. These studies have helped astronomers define Andromeda's structure with unprecedented clarity, showing that the galaxy's disk and halo extend far beyond the boundaries that had been assumed before. The details of the picture are providing clues about how Andromeda came to be the galaxy it is today.