From ESA Hubble: “A spiral galaxy with a secret [heic1302]


The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope – with a little help from an amateur astronomer – has produced one of the best views yet of nearby spiral galaxy Messier 106. Located a little over 20 million light-years away, practically a neighbour by cosmic standards, Messier 106 is one of the brightest and nearest spiral galaxies to our own.

Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), and R. Gendler (for the Hubble Heritage Team). Acknowledgment: J. GaBany, A. van der Hoeven

Despite its appearance, which looks much like countless other galaxies, Messier 106 hides a number of secrets. Thanks to this image, which combines data from Hubble with observations by amateur astronomers Robert Gendler and Jay GaBany, they are revealed as never before.

At its heart, as in most spiral galaxies, is a supermassive black hole, but this one is particularly active. Unlike the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way, which pulls in wisps of gas only occasionally, Messier 106’s black hole is actively gobbling up material. As the gas spirals towards the black hole, it heats up and emits powerful radiation. Part of the emission from the centre of Messier 106 is produced by a process that is somewhat similar to that in a laser – although here the process produces bright microwave radiation.

As well as this microwave emission from Messier 106’s heart, the galaxy has another startling feature – instead of two spiral arms, it appears to have four. Although the second pair of arms can be seen in visible light images as ghostly wisps of gas, as in this image, they are even more prominent in observations made outside of the visible spectrum, such as those using X-ray or radio waves.”

Here is a neat video, Hubblecast 62.

See the full article here.

Added from the NASA Hubble report:
“The center of the galaxy is composed almost entirely of HST data taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys, Wide Field Camera 3, and Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 detectors. The outer spiral arms are predominantly HST data colorized with ground-based data taken by Gendler’s and GaBany’s 12.5-inch and 20-inch telescopes, located at very dark remote sites in New Mexico. The image also reveals the optical component of the “anomalous arms” of M106, seen here as red, glowing hydrogen emission.”

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international co-operation between NASA and the European Space Agency.

The main scientific office for Hubble is located at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, USA, though the telescope is used by scientists around the world. The education and public outreach office for ESA’s share of the Hubble Space Telescope (known as ESA/Hubble), which runs the website, is located at the headquarters of the European Southern Observatory in Garching, Germany.

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