The Andromeda Galaxy Reminds Us How Small We Are

Published January 23, 2015
Updated July 2, 2019

The world's largest image of the Andromeda Galaxy shows the impressive size and scope of the star system.

There are moments when it seems as if the world truly does revolve around us. Yet when we step back and put life in perspective, our smallness quickly becomes evident; we are merely a fraction of a speck in an infinite picture.

At this year’s meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle, NASA released the world’s largest photo of the Andromeda Galaxy. Though the image can hardly do justice to the star system’s gargantuan size and scope, it offers us a breathtaking peek at the complexity of our universe.

World's Largest Image of Andromeda Galaxy

A much smaller version of the massive image. Source: Astro Bob

Massive Galaxy Up Close

A zoomed-in view of the Andromeda Galaxy image. Source: Hyperallergic

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image of the Andromeda Galaxy consists of 1.5 billion pixels—that’s so many pixels that it would take about 4.3 GB of disk space to store the image, and 600 HD television screens to view it in its entirety. Soar through the Andromeda Galaxy in this video tour of the image:

Researchers from the Panchromatic Hubble Andromeda Treasury (PHAT) program spent three years capturing thousands of images of the galaxy. Those shots were then carefully pieced together to create the single image. Photographing a section of the Andromeda Galaxy that spans about 48,000 light-years, the image captured dust lanes, stellar clusters and more than 100 million stars.

Digital Rendering of Andromeda Galaxy

This image shows how large the Andromeda Galaxy would appear if the sky was brighter. Source: Reddit

The Andromeda Galaxy, also known as Messier 31, exists about 2.5 million light-years from Earth. (To put that distance in perspective, remember that the sun is less than 1 light-year from Earth). Still not grasping its enormity? Don’t forget that this image depicts just one out of 100 billion galaxies that comprise our universe. Check out this zoomable version of the image to get really up close and personal.

Andromeda Star System Up Close

A zoomed-in view of the Andromeda Galaxy image. Source: Hyperallergic

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All That's Interesting is a Brooklyn-based digital publisher that seeks out stories that illuminate the past, present, and future.