Hubble Space Telescope captures galaxy with bright black hole at heart of Leo constellation | Science News


The Hubble Space Telescope has turned its sensitive gaze towards the elliptical galaxy Messier 105 located in the constellation Leo.

Hubble image of Messier 105. (Image courtesy: ESA/Hubble and NASA, C. Sarrazin et al.)

New Delhi: The Hubble Space Telescope has captured a stunning image of an elliptical spiral galaxy called Messier 105. The observations indicate that stars in the central region of the galaxy are spinning rapidly as they orbit the supermassive black hole hidden at the centre of the galaxy. The central supermassive black hole is estimated to have a mass equivalent to 200 million Suns. The galaxy is 30 million light-years away in the constellation of Leo.

Messier 105 has an active galactic nucleus, or AGN. The central supermassive black hole is actively feeding, in that it is consuming gas and dust from the galaxy, which is the raw material for star formation, as well as the occasional wandering star system. The infalling material swirls in a disk of tortuous matter, with the extreme friction causing the matter to glow in frequencies across the electromagnetic spectrum. At times, AGNs can outshine all the stars in the surrounding galaxy.

Surprising discovery of active star formation

Astronomers were surprised to discover clusters of relatively young stars in Messier 105. The galaxy was thought to be dead and unable to form new stars. It is estimated that a Sun-like star forms in the galaxy about every 10,000 years. Astronomers also observed ongoing star formation in a giant ring of hydrogen gas that surrounds both Messier 105 and its neighbor, a lenticular galaxy known as NGC 3384.

A signature of Hubble

Like most images of galaxies captured by Hubble, the target is sitting within a field of even more distant galaxies of all shapes and sizes, some of which are interacting. Some of the stars in the foreground have cross-shaped diffraction spikes, a hallmark of the Hubble Space Telescope that only appears on the most intense and focused sources of light. These diffraction spikes are caused by light from distant sources interacting with the telescope's internal supporting structure.


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