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Hubble Spies a Spectacular Spiral Galaxy

Hubble Space Telescope image of the spiral galaxy NGC 5495. Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, J. Greene

This spectacular image, by the NASAEstablished in 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is an independent agency of the United States Federal Government that succeeded the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). It is responsible for the civilian space program, as well as aeronautics and aerospace research. Its vision is "To discover and expand knowledge for the benefit of humanity." Its core values are "safety, integrity, teamwork, excellence, and inclusion."” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>NASA/ESA Hubble Space TelescopeThe Hubble Space Telescope (often referred to as Hubble or HST) is one of NASA's Great Observatories and was launched into low Earth orbit in 1990. It is one of the largest and most versatile space telescopes in use and features a 2.4-meter mirror and four main instruments that observe in the ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. It was named after astronomer Edwin Hubble.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3, reveals the stately sweeping spiral arms of the spiral galaxy NGC 5495. NGC 5495, which is located roughly 300 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Hydra, is a Seyfert galaxy, a type of galaxy with a remarkably bright central region. These very luminous cores — known to astronomers as active galactic nuclei — are dominated by the electromagnetic radiation emitted by dust and gas falling into a supermassive black hole.

Astronomers studying supermassive black holes lurking in the hearts of other galaxies captured a series of observations, including this image. Investigating the central regions of galaxies can be especially challenging: as well as the light created by matter falling into supermassive black holes, areas of star formation, and the light from existing stars all contribute to the brightness of galactic cores. Thanks to Hubble’s crystal-clear vision, astronomers were able to disentangle the various sources of light at the core of NGC 5495. This allowed them to weigh its supermassive black holeA black hole is a place in space where the gravitational field is so strong that not even light can escape it. Astronomers classify black holes into three categories by size: miniature, stellar, and supermassive black holes. Miniature black holes could have a mass smaller than our Sun and supermassive black holes could have a mass equivalent to billions of our Sun.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>black hole precisely.

Besides for NGC 5495, two stellar interlopers are visible in this image. One is just outside the center of NGC 5495, and the other is very prominent alongside the galaxy. While they share the same location on the sky, these objects are much closer to Earth than NGC 5495: they are stars from our own Milky WayThe Milky Way is the galaxy that contains our Solar System, and is named for its appearance from Earth. It is a barred spiral galaxy that contains an estimated 100-400 billion stars and has a diameter between 150,000 and 200,000 light-years.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>Milky Way. The bright stars are surrounded by criss-cross diffraction spikes. These are optical artifacts created by the internal structure of Hubble interacting with starlight.

Source: SciTechDaily