NGC 253 is one of the brightest and dustiest spiral galaxies in the sky but we are always learning new things about it. Astronomers using the Very Large Telescope's (VLT) near-infrared eye called NACO, an adaptive optics instrument, are now saying that the center of NGC 253 hosts a scaled-up version of Sagittarius A*, the bright radio source that lies at the core of the Milky Way, and which we know harbors a massive black hole.
"We have thus discovered what could be a twin of our Galaxy's Centre," says co-author Almudena Prieto, part of the group of astronomers from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (Spain) and lead author of a new paper on the topic, which also disclosed a group of new young, massive and dusty stellar nurseries there.
They used Adaptive Optics (AO) to correct for the blurring effect introduced by the Earth's atmosphere, the turbulence which makes the stars 'twinkle.' With AO in action the telescope can produce images that are as sharp as is theoretically possible, as if the telescope were in space.
NGC 253 is one of the brightest spiral galaxies in the sky, and also one of the dustiest. The whole galaxy is shown here as observed with the WFI instrument, while the insert shows a close-up of the central parts as observed with the NACO instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope and the ACS on the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. This unique set of observations has allowed a team of astronomers from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (Spain) to study the galaxy in great detail, uncovering many young, massive and dusty stellar nurseries. They also found that the centre of this galaxy appears to harbour a twin of our own Milky Way's supermassive black hole. Credit: ESO
NACO revealed features in the galaxy that were only 11 light-years across.
"Our observations provide us with so much spatially resolved detail that we can, for the first time, compare them with the finest radio maps for this galaxy — maps that have existed for more than a decade," says Juan Antonio Fernández-Ontiveros.
Because observations in the radio wavelength domain are not affected by the turbulence of the atmosphere and because radio waves have much longer wavelengths than visible light, it is relatively easy to obtain very high spatial resolution at radio wavelengths by combining observations from well-separated radio telescopes (using interferometry). This is why, until recently, radio maps of galaxies show much more detail than their equivalents in the near-infrared or the optical.
Astronomers identified 37 distinct bright regions, a threefold increase on previous results, packed into a tiny region at the core of the galaxy, comprising just one percent of the galaxy's total size. The astronomers combined their NACO images with data from another VLT instrument, VISIR, as well as with images from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and radio observations made by the Very Large Array and the Very Large Baseline Interferometer. Combining these observations, taken in different wavelength regimes, provided a clue to the nature of these regions.
Lying only 13 million light-years away from us, the spiral galaxy NGC 253 is one of the brightest in the sky. This sequence zooms into this nearly edge-on galaxy, starting with a "naked-eye" very wide-angle view, and then plunging into its heart, where a team of astronomers from Instituto de Astrofisíca de Canarias (Spain) discovered many young, massive and very dusty stellar nurseries. The sequence then blends from the visible light into a very high resolution composite of NACO images obtained with the VLT in the infrared, together with an ACS image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. In the final image, the stellar nurseries appear as reddish blobs near the centre of the Galaxy. Credit: ESO, NASA/ESA, Digitized Sky Survey 2 and A. Fujii
"We now think that these are probably very active nurseries that contain many stars bursting from their dusty cocoons," says Jose Antonio Acosta-Pulido, a member of the team. NGC 253 is known as a starburst galaxy, after its very intense star formation activity. Each bright region could contain as many as one hundred thousand young, massive stars.
Article: Fernandez-Ontiveros J.A., Prieto M.A.&Acosta-Pulido J.A., The nucleus of NGC 253 and its massive stellar clusters at parsec scales, MNRAS letters, 2009, 392, L16, DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-3933.2008.00575.x
- 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?
- How Gut Bacteria Ensure A Healthy Brain – and Could Play A Role In Treating Depression
- Researchers Created A Laser Bullet To See What It Would Look Like - And Here It Is
- The Strange Organic Molecules In Titan's Atmosphere
- We're Too Late To Prevent 137,000 More Ebola Cases, Says Epidemiology Paper
- The Quote Of The Week - Shocked And Disappointed
- It Takes More Than Singing To Strike A Chord In Music Education
- Type 1 Diabetes Surges In White Kids
- "In a universe of infinite realities, maybe there is one where homeopathy works. Just not in this..."
- "y = yesterday, it is listed in some of the text, but I can try to make it clearer.They are an anomaly..."
- "On the luminosity leveling : my limited understanding is that at hl-lhc, the beam lifetime is completely..."
- "The “non-negotiable mathematical reasons” for raising the height of flood defences are in a..."
- "For background, look at Paul Bloom’s 2004 book Descartes’ Baby. This has interesting material..."
- Why Chobani reversed course, making yoghurt only from milk from cows not fed GMO grain
- Monterrey, California–Hotbed of anti-GMO activism–Home to new GMO corn farm
- Evolution is sometimes messy or even outright ridiculous
- Rich and famous embrace Vandana Shiva, wealthy self-described savior of the poor
- US Ebola hysteria and money pit highlight lack of resources to confront diseases that kill far more people
- Addiction can be measured by epigenetics