DANCING IN THE DARK
At the heart of spiral galaxy NGC 1097, a supermassive black hole is feeding. Thanks to the steady flow of incoming matter, the central regions have become a hotbed for star birth.
The central star-forming region is about 5000 light years across, while the galaxy’s dim spiral arms sweep tens of thousands of light years beyond that.
This barred spiral is classified as a Seyfert galaxy, which is a large group of active galaxies with very luminous nuclei. Seyfert galaxies hold a lot of interest for astronomers, because the intensity of the radiation from the accretion discs at their centers can match the luminosity of an entire galaxy like the Milky Way.
NGC 1097 also has two other interesting distinctions. First, between 1992 and 2003, three supernovae were spotted in this galaxy, making it one to watch for supernova spotters. Second, this bright galaxy isn’t alone—two small satellite galaxies, NGC 1097A and NGC 1097B, orbit outside the frame. Observation suggests that NGC 1097A, which is located about 42,000 light-years from the center, has interacted with the larger companion in the past.
The galaxies are located 45 million light-years away in the constellation of Fornax.
Image: ESA/Hubble & NASA
Acknowledgement: E. Sturdivant
Sources: 1, 2