Scientific Frontline® On-Site Search Engine by Google Co-op

Current UTC Time
 
News Home, where you will find the "Current Top Stories"The Communication Center contains current news briefs from major Universities, NASA, ESA, and the top three Aviation Mfg.Science section contains all the latest knowledge in Medical Research, Archeology, Biology, and other General Science NewsCurrent Earth Science and Environmental discoveries.The E.A.R., Environmental Awareness Report. E.A.R. will keep you advised of Environmental Alerts, Government, University, and public projects. All the current space discoveries from Hubble, Spitzer, Chandra X-Ray, ESO, Gemini, Subaru, ESA, NASA, and many more. The latest in space theories from leading astronomers and scientist from around the world.The Space Weather Forecast Center by Scientific Frontline, Current up-to-date space weather, forecasts, alerts and warnings. Images from SOHO, GOES, and STEREO. Plus solar observations from Erika RixCurrent space missions newsThe Cassini Main Page. Containing all the latest news from the Cassini Spacecraft around Saturn. Leading into Cassini status reports, The Cassini Gallery of all the latest images from Cassini. Seeing Saturn and all her moons like never before.Daily Sky maps, Celestial Events Calendar.Observatories Gallery, images from The Great Observatories and other leaders in astronomy.The Stellar Nights  Gallery, An amateur astronomical collection from John Crilly, Richard Handy, Erika Rix, and Paul RixCloudy Nights Telescope Reviews / An Atronomical Community.The latest in Computer, Nanotechnology, and General Technological advancements.The latest in Aviation achievements in civil, military, and space aviationThe World News Report,  news from the Voxant Viral Syndication, known as the Newsroom. Contains the latest videos from major news sources.The news archive from Scientific Frontline's past articles. A world of knowledge at your fingertips.Abstracts, Journals, and Technical papers maintained by Scientific Frontline. The Gateway to all the galleries in the Scientific Frontline collectionThe Scientific Frontline IYA 2009 CoverageResearch Department | Staff and Researchers OnlySite Related links from major universities, government and private research labs.Assorted Downloads related to space, science, aviation, including screensavers and ASTROMONY SOFTWARE, and other endorsed programs.Scientific Frontline Forum | HypercubeThe foundation of an online publication by SFL ORG. News Network called Scientific FrontlineContact page to Scientific Frontline / SFL ORG. News NetworkDisclaimer / Legal Notice for use of the SFL ORG. News Network's publication Scientific Frontline
an online publication of the SFL ORG. Educational News Network

Watching a Cannibal Galaxy Dine

Friday, November 20, 2009

Inside Centaurus A
Comparison Hi-Res Image | Hi-Res Image | Embed Code

Credit: ESO, Y. Beletsky, Digitized Sky Survey 2, and A. Fujii.


A new technique using near-infrared images, obtained with ESO’s 3.58-meter New Technology Telescope (NTT), allows astronomers to see through the opaque dust lanes of the giant cannibal galaxy Centaurus A, unveiling its “last meal” in unprecedented detail — a smaller spiral galaxy, currently twisted and warped. This amazing image also shows thousands of star clusters, strewn like glittering gems, churning inside Centaurus A.

Centaurus A(NGC 5128) is the nearest giant, elliptical galaxy, at a distance of about 11 million light-years. One of the most studied objects in the southern sky, by 1847 the unique appearance of this galaxy had already caught the attention of the famous British astronomer John Herschel, who cataloged the southern skies and made a comprehensive list of nebulae.

Herschel could not know, however, that this beautiful and spectacular appearance is due to an opaque dust lane that covers the central part of the galaxy. This dust is thought to be the remains of a cosmic merger between a giant elliptical galaxy and a smaller spiral galaxy full of dust.

Between 200 and 700 million years ago, this galaxy is believed to have consumed a smaller spiral, gas-rich galaxy — the contents of which appear to be churning inside Centaurus A's core, likely triggering new generations of stars.

First glimpses of the “leftovers” of this meal were obtained thanks to observations with the ESA Infrared Space Observatory , which revealed a 16 500 light-year-wide structure, very similar to that of a small barred galaxy. More recently, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope resolved this structure into a parallelogram, which can be explained as the remnant of a gas-rich spiral galaxy falling into an elliptical galaxy and becoming twisted and warped in the process. Galaxy merging is the most common mechanism to explain the formation of such giant elliptical galaxies.

The new SOFI images, obtained with the 3.58-meter New Technology Telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory, allow astronomers to get an even sharper view of the structure of this galaxy, completely free of obscuring dust. The original images, obtained by observing in the near-infrared through three different filters (J, H, K) were combined using a new technique that removes the dark, screening effect of the dust, providing a clear view of the center of this galaxy.

What the astronomers found was surprising: “There is a clear ring of stars and clusters hidden behind the dust lanes, and our images provide an unprecedentedly detailed view toward it,says Jouni Kainulainen, lead author of the paper reporting these results. “Further analysis of this structure will provide important clues on how the merging process occurred and what has been the role of star formation during it.

The research team is excited about the possibilities this new technique opens: “These are the first steps in the development of a new technique that has the potential to trace giant clouds of gas in other galaxies at high resolution and in a cost-effective way,explains co-author João Alves. “Knowing how these giant clouds form and evolve is to understand how stars form in galaxies.

Looking forward to the new, planned telescopes, both on the ground and in space, “this technique is very complementary to the radio data ALMA will collect on nearby galaxies, and at the same time it poses interesting avenues of research for extragalactic stellar populations with the future European Extremely Large Telescope and the James Webb Space Telescope, as dust is omnipresent in galaxies,” says co-author Yuri Beletsky.

Previous observations done with ISAAC on the VLT have revealed that a supermassive black hole lurks inside Centaurus A. Its mass is about 200 million times the mass of our Sun, or 50 times more massive than the one that lies at the center of our Milky Way. In contrast to our own galaxy, the supermassive black hole in Centaurus A is continuously fed by material falling onto into it, making the giant galaxy a very active one. Centaurus A is in fact one of the brightest radio sources in the sky (hence the “A” in its name). Jets of high energy particles from the center are also observed in radio and X-ray images.

The new image of Centaurus A is a wonderful example of how frontier science can be combined with aesthetic aspects.

Source: ESO

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

RSS FEEDS

Scientific Frontline®
The Comm Center
The E.A.R.®
World News Report
Space Weather Alerts
Stellar Nights®
Cassini Gallery
Mars Gallery
Missions Gallery
Observatories Gallery
Exploration Gallery
Aviation Gallery
Nature Trail Gallery


Scientific Frontline®
Is supported in part by “Readers Like You”
Baffling boxy bulge Cosmic Centaurus A Arcs Navigate Back or Forward Through Space News, Related Site Page or Pick an Article From The News Ticker.
Member of

Scientific Frontline®, Stellar Nights®, E.A.R.®, and Environmental Awareness Report®”
Are Registered Trademarks of the
Online Publication of the SFL ORG. Educational News Network
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma USA
A Not-for-Profit Educational News Service
© 2005 - 2010 All Rights Reserved


Home | Comm. Center | Science | Earth Science | Space | Space Weather Center | Aviation | Technology | Galleries | About Us | Contact Us | Site Map | FAQ