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APOD: NGC1275 August 25, 2008

Posted by Sarah in science.
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I’m a bit late to it and it has appeared in a few other places before, but this picture, which appeared on APOD on 22 August, is so stunning I still want to post it up here. It shows a visible light image from the Hubble Space Telescope of this active galaxy. Coolness: if you go to the original APOD post you can overlay radio and X-ray images over this one from Hubble by hovering your cursor over it. Nice touch!

NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA); A. Fabian (IoA, Cambridge U.), L. Frattare (STScI), CXC, G. Taylor, NRAO,VLA

Active Galaxy NGC 1275 Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA); A. Fabian (IoA, Cambridge U.), L. Frattare (STScI), CXC, G. Taylor, NRAO,VLA

NGC 1275 lies in the constellation of Perseus. It is a powerful active galaxy, which means it has an incredibly luminous core. Astronomers are pretty certain that these types of galaxies contain a super-massive black hole in their centres, and that the huge amounts of energy are the result of material falling into the black hole. At ~230 million light years away, NGC 1275 is one of the nearest examples of this type of massive galaxy monster.

Lots of cool things can be seen in this image. The red filaments that emanate from the central region are glowing streams of hot ionised gas. We don’t really understand the nature of these streams; it’s thought that they are held together over thousands of light years by magnetic fields. This is an even more amazing picture of the filaments taken with the 3.5 m WIYN telescope.

The dark spots in this image are lanes of dust, interspersed with blue patches, which are regions of active star formation. The blue colour is typical of very young and massive stars, which contain more heavy elements and metals. And if you look closely you can make out some spiral structure in the very centre.

An excellent description of this galaxy is given by the folks at Hubble Heritage.

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