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Beauty of Nature(space photos)

November 24, 2009

Coiled Creature———–SEE THE BLACK HOLE

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has imaged a wild creature of the dark — a coiled galaxy with an eye-like object at its center.The ‘eye’ at the center of the galaxy is actually a monstrous black hole surrounded by a ring of stars. In this color-coded infrared view from Spitzer, the area around the invisible black hole is blue and the ring of stars, white.

The galaxy, called NGC 1097 and located 50 million light-years away, is spiral-shaped like our Milky Waywith long, spindly arms of stars.

The black hole is huge, about 100 million times the mass of our sun, and is feeding off gas and dust, along with the occasional unlucky star. Our Milky Way’s central black hole is tame in comparison, with a mass of a few million suns.

The ring around the black hole is bursting with new star formation. An inflow of material toward the central bar of the galaxy is causing the ringto light up with new stars. And, the galaxy’s red spiral arms and the swirling spokes seen between the arms show dust heated by newborn stars. Older populations of stars scattered through the galaxy are blue. The fuzzy blue dot to the left, which appears to fit snugly between the arms, is a companion galaxy. Other dots in the picture are either nearby stars in our galaxy, or distant galaxies.

This image was taken during Spitzer’s cold mission, before it ran out of liquid coolant. The observatory’s warm mission is ongoing, with two infrared channels operating at about 30 degrees Kelvin (-406 degrees Fahrenheit).

Black Holes Go ‘Mano a Mano’

This image of NGC 6240 contains new X-ray data from Chandra (shown in red, orange, and yellow) that has been combined with an optical image from the Hubble Space Telescope originally released in 2008. In 2002, Chandra data led to the discovery of two merging black holes, which are a mere 3,000 light years apart. They are seen as the bright point-like sources in the middle of the image.

Scientists think these black holes

are in such close proximity because they are in the midst of spiraling toward each other — a process that began about 30 million years ago. It is estimated that they holes will eventually drift together and merge into a larger black hole some tens or hundreds of millions of years from now.

Finding and studying merging black holes has become a very active field of research in astrophysics. Since 2002, there has been intense interest in follow-up observations of NGC 6240, as well as a search for similar systems. Understanding what happens when these exotic objects interact with one another remains an intriguing question for scientists.

The formation of multiple systems of supermassive black holes should be common in the universe, since many galaxies undergo collisions and mergers with other galaxies, most of which contain supermassive black holes. It is thought that pairs of massive blackholes can explain some of the unusual behavior seen by rapidly growing supermassive black holes, such as the distortion and bending seen in the powerful jets they produce. Also, pairs of massive black holes in the process of merging are expected to be the most powerful sources of gravitational waves in the Universe.

Hosting Destruction

This artist’s concept illustrates the two types of spiral galaxies that populate our universe: those with plump middles, or central bulges (upper left), and those lacking the bulge (foreground).

New observations from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope provide strong evidence that the slender, bulgeless galaxies can, like their chubbier counterparts, harbor supermassive black holes at their cores. Previously, astronomers

thought that a galaxy without a bulge could not have a supermassive black hole. In this illustration, jets shooting away from the black holes are depicted as thin streams.

Andromeda in Ultraviolet

In a break from its usual task of searching for distant cosmic explosions, NASA’s Swift satellite acquired the highest-resolution view of a neighboring spiral galaxy ever attained in the ultraviolet. The galaxy, known as M31 in the constellation Andromeda, is the largest and closest spiral galaxy to our own. This mosaic of M31 merges 330 individual images taken by Swift’s Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope. The image shows a region 200,000 light-years wide and

100,000 light-years high (100 arcminutes by 50 arcminutes).

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