NGC 7331 ~ The Milky Way's Twin?
Optics: RC Optical System 20" F/8.2 (4165.6 mm Focal Length) Date: June-August 2020
Camera: SBIG STXL-11000 with AO-X Adaptive Optics Location: Columbus, Texas
Exposure: LRGB = 820:80:80:100 minutes Imager: Kent E. Biggs
NGC 7331 is an unbarred spiral galaxy about 40 million light years away in the direction of the constellation Pegasus, the winged horse of ancient Greek mythology. The words "in the direction of" is used here, since no astronomical object is ever really "in" a constellation. Constellations are made up collections of stars by humans that are as fleeting as cloud shapes on an astronomical scale. NGC 7331 appears to be surrounded by a group of galaxies, but all of the other galaxies highlighted in this image are much much further away at 300 and 400 million light years distant. Hovering over the image will show the names of the other brighter galaxies in this image. Until the early 2000s, it was believed that NGC 7331 was very similar to our own Milky Way galaxy and hence called its twin. However, discoveries have proven that our galaxy, although similar in size and number of stars, is actually a barred spiral galaxy that has a bar structure running through the center. NGC 7331 cleary has no bar and is therefore different from our own galaxy. One interesting observation about NGC 7331 is that if you look closely enough you will see that the center core of the galaxy is not perfectly centered, as it favors the left side in this image. Furthermore, it appears slightly inclined compared to the disk of the entire galaxy. Amazing enough, this central disk is actually rotating in the opposite direction of the galaxy, a mystery among many others about the nature of galaxy formation and their behaviors.

NGC 7331 - Earlier Imaging and Gen1 Processing.
Optics: RC Optical System 20" F/8.2 (4165.6 mm Focal Length) Date: October 2010
Camera: SBIG ST10XME with Adaptive Optics Location: Columbus, Texas
Exposure: LRGB = 400:120:80:120 minutes Imager: Kent E. Biggs
NGC 7331 is one of the most impressive spiral galaxies in the sky. It is the brightest galaxy not to be included in the famous Messier catalog of 100+ objects familiar to most amateurs. Some refer to this galaxy as our own Milky Way Galaxy's twin due to its appearance, but recent research suggests that our galaxy is actually a barred spiral. NGC 7331 is often called the Deer Lick Group named by Tomm Lorenzin coinciding with his best view of the group during a trip to the Deer Lick Gap in the Smokey Mountains. At 40-50 million light years, NGC 7331 is moving away from us at over 500 miles per second and is slightly larger than our own galaxy. The "smaller" galaxies in the image are far in the distant and probably of similar size and mass to this galaxy. The stats for this galaxy are RA: 22h 37m 04.5s, Dec: +34° 25' 00", Mag: 9.4 (V), Size: 14.5'x3.7', Class: SA(s)b.