Image of the Day: The Mystery Galaxy (Video)


This picture, taken by Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys, is not just a beautiful snapshot of NGC 4696, the largest galaxy in the Centaurus Cluster. 4696 is an elliptical galaxy with a big difference: a huge dust lane, around 30 000 light-years across, sweeps across the face of the galaxy and viewed at certain wavelengths, strange thin filaments of ionised hydrogen are visible as a subtle marbling effect across the galaxy's brilliant center. The galaxy is surrounded by many dwarf elliptical galaxies.

Looking at NGC 4696 in the optical and near-infrared wavelengths seen by Hubble gives a beautiful and dramatic view of the galaxy. But in fact, much of its inner turmoil is still hidden from view in this picture. At the heart of the galaxy, a supermassive black hole is blowing out jets of matter at nearly the speed of light. When looked at in X-ray wavelengths, such as those visible from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, huge voids within the galaxy become visible, telltale signs of these jets' enormous power.

The picture was created from images taken using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys. A total of 5440 s of exposure through a blue filter (F435W, shown in blue) were combined with 2320 s through a near-infrared filter (F814W, shown in red).The field of view is 3.2 by 1.5 arcminutes.


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