Image of the Day: A Mystery Galaxy Surrounded by Dwarf Ellipticals


This image, 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 much of its inner turmoil is still hidden from view. 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 Daily Galaxy via Chandra X-ray Observatory


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