The odd shape of NGC 4696, the largest galaxy in the Centaurus Cluster (galaxy cluster Abell 3526), leads to fundamental science questions. First, why is it such a strange shape? And what are the odd, capillary-like filaments that stretch out of it? What is the role of a large black hole in explaining its odd appearance?
NGC 4696 is different sort of elliptical galaxy. Lacking the complex structure and active star formation of their spiral brethren, elliptical galaxies are usually little more than shapeless collections of aging stars. Most likely formed by collisions between spiral galaxies, elliptical galaxies experience a brief burst of star formation triggered as the interstellar dust and gas crash into each other, but which quickly leaves the young elliptical galaxies exhausted. With no more gas to form new stars from, the galaxies gradually grow older and fainter.
But NGC 4696 is more interesting. The huge dust lane, around 30 000 light-years across, that sweeps across the face of the galaxy is one way in which it looks different from most other elliptical galaxies. Viewed at certain wavelengths, strange thin filaments of ionised hydrogen are visible within it. In this picture, these structures are visible as a subtle marbling effect across the galaxy’s bright center.
Video of NGC 4696, the largest galaxy in the Centaurus Cluster (galaxy cluster Abell 3526) as seen with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA, ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2 and S. Brunier. Music: John Dyson (from the album "Moonwind"). Acknowledgment: Davide De Martin
Looking at NGC 4696 in the optical and near-infrared wavelengths seen by Hubble gives a beautiful and dramatic view of the galaxy. But in fact, much of its inner turmoil is still hidden from view in this picture. At the heart of the galaxy, a supermassive black hole is blowing out jets of matter at nearly the speed of light. When looked at in X-ray wavelengths, such as those visible from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, huge voids within the galaxy become visible, telltale signs of these jets’ enormous power.
The picture below was created from images taken using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys. A total of 5440 s of exposure through a blue filter (F435W, shown in blue) were combined with 2320 s through a near-infrared filter (F814W, shown in red).The field of view is 3.2 by 1.5 arcminutes.
This picture, taken by Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys, shows NGC 4696, the largest galaxy in the Centaurus Cluster. The huge dust lane, around 30 000 light-years across, that sweeps across the face of the galaxy makes NGC 4696 look different from most other elliptical galaxies. Viewed at certain wavelengths, strange thin filaments of ionised hydrogen are visible within it. In this picture, these structures are visible as a subtle marbling effect across the galaxy’s bright center. Credit: ESA/Hubble and NASA
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Your Probiotic Probably Has Gluten
- Bang !! 13 TeV - The Highest Energy Ever Achieved By Mankind ?!
- Mummy Madness In The Anatomical Record - All Open Access
- Mystery Of Morgellons - Disease Or Delusion - Scientific Hypothesis Of Connection With Lyme Disease
- 'Natural' Sounds Improve May Improve Office Mood And Productivity
- The Case Of The Missing Booze: Brits Drink 12 Million More Bottles Per Week Than Previous Estimates
- Nuclear Power Isn't Really Zero-emission, But Neither Is Anything Else
- "Whatever that RT thing is writes that same article every 6 months, and every 6 months someone has..."
- "Here's one good answer to the question of your title: http://rt.com/news/261673-india-gmo..."
- "I'm fine, don't have Morgellons or chronic lyme disease, and thinking about the condition doesn't..."
- "[t]he only thing that can set us right is a katalepsis, a seizure by grace, something transformative..."
- "Well, Soon after having sent my previous comment I got a message from Neil Sloane that he had published..."
- Savannahs slow climate change
- Sudden onset of ice loss in Antarctica detected
- Proton therapy has fewer side effects in esophageal cancer patients
- Mood instability common to mental health disorders and associated with poor outcomes
- Depression associated with 5-fold increase in mortality risk for heart failure patients