Messier 77 is a galaxy in the constellation of Cetus, some 45 million light-years away from us. Also known as NGC 1068, it is one of the most famous and well-studied galaxies. It is a real star among galaxies, with more papers written about it than many other galaxies put together!
Despite its current fame and striking swirling appearance, the galaxy has been a victim of mistaken identity a couple of times; when it was initially discovered in 1780, the distinction between gas clouds and galaxies was not known, causing finder Pierre Mechain to miss its true nature and label it as a nebula. It was misclassified again when it was subsequently listed in the Messier Catalogue as a star cluster.
Now, however, it is firmly categorised as a barred spiral galaxy, with loosely wound arms and a relatively small central bulge. It is the closest and brightest example of a particular class of galaxies known as Seyfert galaxies -- galaxies that are full of hot, highly ionised gas that glows brightly, emitting intense radiation.
Strong radiation like this is known to come from the heart of Messier 77 -- caused by a very active black hole that is around 15 million times the mass of our Sun. Material is dragged towards this black hole and circles around it, heating up and glowing strongly. This region of a galaxy alone, although comparatively small, can be tens of thousands of times brighter than a typical galaxy.
Although no competition for the intense centre, Messier 77's spiral arms are also very bright regions. Dotted along each arm are knotty red clumps -- a signal that new stars are forming. These baby stars shine strongly, ionising nearby gas which then glows a deep red colour as seen in the image above. The dust lanes stretching across this image appear as a rusty, brown-red colour due to a phenomenon known as reddening; the dust absorbs more blue light than red light, enhancing its apparent redness.
ESA/Hubble Information Centre: http://www.spacetelescope.org
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
Defending itself like a knight in a fight, Earth can funnel material from its immediate surroundings to act as a buffer against incoming geomagnetic storms
Patsy Cline's classic country song "I Fall to Pieces," has nothing on this one.
It's only the size of a dishwasher and weighs as much as giant panda, but its inventors are hoping this spacecraft will go where no other Israeli vessel has gone before - to the moon.
About 5 million years ago, an asteroid or comet slammed into Mars so hard that rocks and other debris launched into space.
President Barack Obama's 2015 NASA budget plan includes funding for a robotic mission to an ocean-bearing moon of Jupiter and could help boost commercial ventures to fly astronauts to the International Space Station, NASA officials said on Tuesday.
It's set to come within 216,000 miles of Earth, which is closer than you think.
NASA says cooperation on International Space Station continues, but asks for funding to end reliance on Russian transport
A mysterious dark spot in downtown Tokyo. A flock of dancing dots in the Pacific. A town that's half orange, half green. Astronaut puzzlers seen from space.
Since the mid-1990s, when fuel stopped flowing from the defunct Soviet Union to North Korea, the famously hermetic country has descended into darkness.
NASA will admit on Wednesday that Luca Parmitano's space suit leaked on two space walks in July, after details on the initial incident were not properly disseminated, ABC News has learned.