A magnificent image of one of our strangest galactic neighbors shows fascinating details and reveals its tumultuous past.
Ever-improving technology allows us to take ever-improving images of the universe. The proof is a spectacular image of our galactic neighbor (in the preview image).
The Dark Energy camera from the Cerro Tolo Observatory in the Chilean Andes gave us a perfect view of the Centaurus A galaxy, 12 million light-years from Earth. In her most detailed picture yet, published on the server NOIRLab, you see the glow of its stars, through which the dark strings of cosmic dust and gas intertwine. (From NoirLab, where it is also 47.4 MB in size, you can print it on a poster.)
The view is also interesting for us because Centaurus A (also known as NGC 5128 or Caldwell 77) is a galaxy with which we have a similar history. Like our Milky Way, this galaxy has acquired its distorted shape by colliding with another smaller galaxy. The distortion is also visible on its disk and its magnetic fields.
The galactic collision started the birth of stars in Centaur A, which you can see in the picture. Between the dark streaks of cosmic dust, the red color of hydrogen clouds and blue twinkling new stars are visible.
Centaurus A with its flashy radio lobes. | source:
In the center of the galaxy is a giant black hole with a mass of 55 million Suns. However, not all matter falls into it, part of it is directed into the magnetic field, from where it is fired into the intergalactic space in the form of plasma rays, which create huge lobes emitting radio waves.
The lobes extend a million light-years away. And because the galaxy is close to us, they are incredibly bright in the sky.
A bright galactic bulge and a dark threshold band can also be seen in the telescope’s viewfinder and large binoculars. A large astronomical telescope can show other details. Under good conditions, this galaxy may even be visible to the naked eye.
Diagram of the galaxy Centaurus A. | zdroj: Wikimedia Commons / Nedd
We would almost like to wave to our space neighbors. If somewhere in the vast Centaur, however, some live.
However, if you wanted to greet them, you would have to take a trip south. The galaxy Centaurus A is observable only from small northern latitudes and from the southern hemisphere. In Central Europe, it does not rise above the horizon.