Hubble Space Telescope Photographs a Galaxy Filled With Bright Blue Threads of Cosmic Gas

Saturday, 09 June 2018 - 4:27PM
Space
Astronomy
Space Imagery
Saturday, 09 June 2018 - 4:27PM
Hubble Space Telescope Photographs a Galaxy Filled With Bright Blue Threads of Cosmic Gas
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ESA/Hubble & NASA
The center of a galaxy tends to be the most interesting part, not least because that's often where a supermassive black hole is sitting. But those galactic cores are rarely so blue.

Calling it a "misshapen lake system," the team behind the Hubble space telescope (which is jointly operated by NASA and the European Space Agency) released an image of the galaxy IC 4870, a "Seyfert galaxy" about 28 million lightyears away. As you can see, it's most distinctive feature is a spread of bright blue gases which appear to be threads weaving around the galaxy's center.

See it below:




Hubble, and indeed astronomers long before the telescope was active, have studied IC 4870 for a long time, and the galaxy was first discovered by American astronomer DeLisle Stewart in 1900. So scientists have a fairly detailed understanding of the unusual "lake system" galaxy by now.

At the core of IC 4870 is an active galactic nucleus, a highly luminous region that far outshines the rest of the galaxy, and which is thought to be powered by a supermassive black hole hidden inside it. And it's luminous in lots of ways beyond just what we can see, since active galactic nuclei fires off radiation in visible light, as well as ultraviolet, infrared, and everywhere on the electromagnetic spectrum from radio waves to gamma rays.

It also has some unique emission lines that classify it as a Seyfert galaxy, which is typical of galaxies with small, bright cores like this one. So it may look like a lake, but there's more than enough radiation that it's not such a great place to go swimming.

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