Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Classic portrait of a barred spiral galaxy

03.02.2012
Hubble observes NGC 1073

Most spiral galaxies in the Universe have a bar structure in their centre, and Hubble's image of NGC 1073 offers a particularly clear view of one of these. Galaxies' star-filled bars are thought to emerge as gravitational density waves funnel gas toward the galactic centre, supplying the material to create new stars. The transport of gas can also feed the supermassive black holes that lurk in the centres of almost every galaxy.


The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has taken a picture of the barred spiral galaxy NGC 1073, which is found in the constellation of Cetus (The Sea Monster). Our own galaxy, the Milky Way, is thought to be a similar barred spiral, and the study of galaxies such as NGC 1073 can help astronomers learn more about our celestial home. Credit: NASA & ESA

Some astronomers have suggested that the formation of a central bar-like structure might signal a spiral galaxy's passage from intense star-formation into adulthood, as the bars turn up more often in galaxies full of older, red stars than younger, blue stars. This storyline would also account for the observation that in the early Universe, only around a fifth of spiral galaxies contained bars, while more than two thirds do in the more modern cosmos.

While Hubble's image of NGC 1073 is in some respects an archetypal portrait of a barred spiral, there are a couple of quirks worth pointing out.

One, ironically, is almost — but not quite — invisible to optical telescopes like Hubble. In the upper left part of the image, a rough ring-like structure of recent star formation hides a bright source of X-rays. Called IXO 5, this X-ray source is likely to be a binary system featuring a black hole and a star orbiting each other. Comparing X-ray observations from the Chandra spacecraft with this Hubble image, astronomers have narrowed the position of IXO 5 down to one of two faint stars visible here. However, X-ray observations with current instruments are not precise enough to conclusively determine which of the two it is.

Hubble's image does not only tell us about a galaxy in our own cosmic neighbourhood, however. We can also discern glimpses of objects much further away, whose light tells us about earlier eras in cosmic history.

Right across Hubble's field of view, more distant galaxies are peering through NGC 1073, with several reddish examples appearing clearly in the top left part of the frame.

More intriguing still, three of the bright points of light in this image are neither foreground stars from the Milky Way, nor even distant stars in NGC 1073. In fact they are not stars at all. They are quasars, incredibly bright sources of light caused by matter heating up and falling into supermassive black holes in galaxies literally billions of light-years from us. The chance alignment through NGC 1073, and their incredible brightness, might make them look like they are part of the galaxy, but they are in fact some of the most distant objects observable in the Universe.

Notes

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.

Image credit: NASA & ESA

Links

Images of Hubble: http://www.spacetelescope.org/images/archive/category/spacecraft/
Contacts

Oli Usher
Hubble/ESA
Garching, Germany
Tel: 49-89-3200-6855
Email: ousher@eso.org

Oli Usher | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.eso.org

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Levitating objects with light
19.03.2019 | California Institute of Technology

nachricht Stellar cartography
19.03.2019 | Leibniz-Institut für Astrophysik Potsdam

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Stellar cartography

The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.

A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...

Im Focus: Heading towards a tsunami of light

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...

Im Focus: Revealing the secret of the vacuum for the first time

New research group at the University of Jena combines theory and experiment to demonstrate for the first time certain physical processes in a quantum vacuum

For most people, a vacuum is an empty space. Quantum physics, on the other hand, assumes that even in this lowest-energy state, particles and antiparticles...

Im Focus: Sussex scientists one step closer to a clock that could replace GPS and Galileo

Physicists in the EPic Lab at University of Sussex make crucial development in global race to develop a portable atomic clock

Scientists in the Emergent Photonics Lab (EPic Lab) at the University of Sussex have made a breakthrough to a crucial element of an atomic clock - devices...

Im Focus: Sensing shakes

A new way to sense earthquakes could help improve early warning systems

Every year earthquakes worldwide claim hundreds or even thousands of lives. Forewarning allows people to head for safety and a matter of seconds could spell...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

International Modelica Conference with 330 visitors from 21 countries at OTH Regensburg

11.03.2019 | Event News

Selection Completed: 580 Young Scientists from 88 Countries at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

01.03.2019 | Event News

LightMAT 2019 – 3rd International Conference on Light Materials – Science and Technology

28.02.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Levitating objects with light

19.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

New technique for in-cell distance determination

19.03.2019 | Life Sciences

Stellar cartography

19.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>