The closest galaxies to the Milky Way, our neighbors, are those that belong to the so-called Local Group.
They are easily seen with an amateur telescope. Some, such as Andromeda and the Magellanic Clouds, can be seen even with the naked eye.
Around the Milky Way orbit some dwarf galaxies. In 1994, the Sagittarius Elliptical Dwarf Galaxy or SagDEG (Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy in English) was discovered 70,000 light years away, and in 2003 the Can Mayor Galaxy at 25,000 light years. They are the two closest discovered so far.
Most important nearby galaxies
Andromeda: 2.5 million light years from Earth. It is a giant spiral, twice the size of the Milky Way. It is the largest galaxy in the Local Group. It contains hundreds of billions of stars and lots of nebulae. In its center there is a supermassive black hole. It is very bright and is the furthest object that can be seen with the naked eye. It is estimated that within about 6 billion years, the Milky Way and Andromeda will collide.
Small and Large Magellanic Cloud: they are two satellite galaxies of the Milky Way. This means that the Milky Way attracts them with their gravity, and in the future they will be part of it. They are called that because Magellan was the first European explorer to observe them, in the 16th century. The Big Cloud is 170,000 light years away, and the Little Cloud 210,000 light years. They are dwarf and irregular galaxies, with many nebulae and young stars. In the southern hemisphere they are seen with the naked eye, like two white clouds isolated from the Milky Way that crosses the sky.
Triangle: It is the third largest galaxy in the Local Group, behind Andromeda and the Milky Way. It is 3 million light years. Only seen with telescope. It has a spiral shape, similar to our galaxy. Andromeda is believed to attract her with her gravity, and could even orbit her. In the Triangle galaxy is the largest known emission nebula: NGC 604.
|Galaxy||Distance (light years)||Diameter (light years)|
|Great Magellanic Cloud||170.000||20.000|
|Small Magellanic Cloud||210.000||15.000|
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|Active galaxies||The Local Group|