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Updated 2:12 PM EST, Wed, Jan 29, 2020

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'Eye of Sauron' Helps in Accurately Measuring Galactic Distances

The "Eye of Sauron"

(Photo : NASA) This composite image shows the central region of the spiral galaxy NGC 4151, dubbed the "Eye of Sauron".

A distant galaxy dubbed the "Eye of Sauron" has helped researchers figure out how to more accurately measure the distance to faraway galaxies.

In this new technique, measurements are taken from the physical and angular size or shape of a standard ruler in the galaxy to calibrate the distance.

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Researchers from the University of Southampton used a nearby galaxy called NGC4151 or the "Eye of Sauron" as the identifier to gauge the accurate distance of cosmic objects not available from prior studies and research. The features of NGC4151 are similar to the character in JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings saga, hence the galaxy's nickname.

NGC4151 is apparently pivotal in the acquisition of accurate measurements of black hole masses. The galaxy's distances range from 4 to 29 megaparsecs using this new method. It yielded a distance of 19 megaparsecs to its supermassive black hole.

One megaparsec is equivalent to 3,000,000 light years.

Researcher Sebastian Hoenig said one of the key findings of this new method is that it's fairly accurate, with only a 10 percent margin for error. The current results for galaxy NGC 4151 can be used as a gauge to achieve the same precision and accuracy in determining distances to very remote galaxies based on simple geometric principles.

This new method can readily be used and applied to determine cosmological parameters of objects in space, especially those in immensely distant galaxies millions of light years away, and in measuring black hole masses.

This study about the new method is detailed in the journal, Nature.

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