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?
- On Sexuality, You Weren't Born That Way, Says Paper
- Bubble-wrapped Sponge Creates Steam Using Sunlight
- Reframing Body Weight As Baby Weight May Help Women Handle Pregnancy
- Petition: Let's End Dramatized Reporting Of "Doomsday" Stories - The Vulnerable Get Suicidal
- Watching Thoughts -- And Addiction -- Form In The Brain
- Post-Doctoral Positions In Experimental Physics For Foreigners
- Stem Cell Therapy Heals Injured Mouse Brain
- "i've often wondered https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Behavioral_sink ..."
- "Dylan, yes back online now. The Sun, and Moon are visible in all those places, of course, so if..."
- "Tina, I think it's best to try to understand the constellation argument because then you can just..."
- "People worry about a system entering ours and spelling doomsday for us all, however I believe if..."
- " I appreciate your hard work and look forward to any future publications with great interest, thank..."
- Fauci: Don’t Make Policy Based on Animal Studies
- Exercise Could Save Your Liver
- Precision Medicine Stands On Imprecise Infrastructure
- Standing with Giants: A Collection of Public Health Essays in Memoriam to Dr. Elizabeth M. Whelan
- RIP Dr. D.A. Henderson, ACSH Trustee Who Helped End Smallpox
- How Safe Are Tattoos?
- Study uses geo-mapping to identify 'hot spots' for use of fentanyl and other opiates
- Study examines families' journeys to accepting transgender children
- Private detention of immigrants deters family visits, study finds
- Study finds changes to retirement savings system may exacerbate economic inequality
- Traumatic brain injury associated with long-term psychosocial outcomes