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NGC 5584 is a face-on spiral galaxy, more than 50,000 light-years across, that resides 72 million light-years away in the constellation Virgo. Among the galaxy’s myriad stars are 250 stars that vary in brightness and are classified as Cepheids. In addition to these Cepheids, NGC 5584 was also the site of SN 2007af, a type Ia supernova. Once astronomers know accurate distances to galaxies near and far, they can determine the universe’s expansion rate.
Every decrease in uncertainty of the universe’s expansion rate helps solidify our understanding of its cosmic ingredients.

Its winding spiral arms are loaded with luminous young star clusters and thin dark dust lanes which appear to be flowing from the yellowish core, where older stars reside. These are brilliant pulsating stars with a remarkable property — once the time it takes a Cepheid to brighten and fade is known, then it is possible to find how bright it actually is. These dramatic explosions of white dwarf stars are used as reference beacons for mapping the expansion, and acceleration, of the more remote Universe so this galaxy is a very valuable link between the two distance scales. By studying many Cepheids in 8 galaxies (was one of them was NGC 5584) the team has been able to refine our knowledge of this expansion rate, expressed as a number known as Hubble’s constant, to an accuracy of 3.3 percent. When this information is combined with a measurement of how bright the star appears it is easy to work out how far away the star actually lies.

Please note: this image is protected by copyright law and may not be used without buying a license. This method is the most accurate and effective way to measure the distances to most nearby galaxies.

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