This faraway galaxy is the Milky Way's identical twin

This is the galaxy NGC 6744, located about 30 million light-years away. It just so happens that this galaxy looks pretty much exactly like what our own galaxy would look like...except this galaxy is twice as big as ours.

Still, despite its vastly bigger size, NGC 6744 is otherwise a dead ringer for our own galaxy, which makes it invaluable for visualizing what our galaxy looks like. While we have a fairly decent handle on what the Milky Way should look like, the fact that we're stuck inside it means that we can never get a really good look at it.

The European Southern Observatory took this image from the La Silla Observatory in Chile, and their astronomers explain just how strong the resemblance really is:

"If we had the technology to escape the Milky Way and could look down on it from intergalactic space, this view is close to the one we would see - striking spiral arms wrapping around a dense, elongated nucleus and a dusty disc. There is even a distorted companion galaxy - NGC 6744A, seen here as a smudge to the lower right of NGC 6744, which is reminiscent of one of the Milky Way's neighboring Magellanic Clouds."

As always, the scale of these galaxies is just mind-boggling. NGC 6744 is as bright as 60 billion suns, and even from thirty million light-years away it's big enough to take up nearly as much space in the night sky as the full moon. That means that NGC 6744 can be seen even with just a small telescope, which it's easy for anyone in the southern hemisphere to point a telescope at the night sky and imagine they're an alien astronomer peering at the far distant Milky Way galaxy.

Via Space.com.