This gorgeous island universe just begs the question: "are we alone?" With an estimated 100 billion galaxies in the Universe, we think not. Well, perhaps in the Milky Way. NGC 7331, 50 million light-years distant in the northern constellation Pegasus, is often touted as a twin spiral analog to our Galaxy. NGC 7331 was recognized early on as a spiral nebula and is actually one of the brighter galaxies not included in Charles Messier's famous 18th century catalog.
Since the galaxy's disk is inclined to our line-of-sight, long telescopic exposures often result in an image that evokes a strong sense of depth. The effect is further enhanced in this well-framed view by the galaxies that lie beyond. The background galaxies are about one tenth the apparent size of NGC 7331 and so lie roughly ten times farther away.