Sunday, August 8, 2021

Nearby Dusty Galaxy Shines in Hubble Photo

A dusty galaxy neighboring our Milky Way galaxy glows bright and bright in an eye-catching new Hubble Space Telescope photo.

 The image, released Thursday (June 16), is a close-up of the Centaurus A galaxy, also known as NGC 5128 and located about 11 million light years from the Milky Way.  Dust traverses the entire galaxy in a huge swath, obscuring much of Centaurus A's heart in the visible range of the light spectrum.

 The Hubble photo, however, cuts through the cloud because it doesn't just depend on visible light. 

 The image also incorporates observations at ultraviolet and near-infrared wavelengths.  This last part of the electromagnetic spectrum allows astronomers to peek behind dusty cosmic curtains.

 The galaxy's compact core contains a highly active supermassive black hole at its center.  Powerful jets launch huge amounts of radio and X-ray radiation into space.  However, these jets are not visible in the new image as Hubble's instruments were not designed to capture these wavelengths of light.

 Centaurus A is relatively close in astronomical terms and is also quite bright.  This combination makes the galaxy an attractive target for amateur astronomers in the southern hemisphere, where it is visible.  Astronauts can see the galaxy through binoculars, while larger amateur telescopes can see some of Centaurus A's distinct dust lanes, the researchers said.

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 This new image, taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, reveals never-before-seen details of the Centaurus A galaxy. The image is a composite, showing features in the visible, ultraviolet, and near-infrared spectrum.  (Image credit: NASA, ESA & the Hubble Heritage (STScI / AURA) -ESA)

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