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A Spiral Galaxy With A Secret


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

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

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.

Full Story: http://www.spacetelescope.org/news/heic1302/
Also: http://heritage.stsci.edu/2013/06/caption.html

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