There are some startling beautiful pictures of a galaxy named “Centaurus A” that were published late last week. The image though that makes you stop and stare is the image of the galaxy when viewed in infrared instead of visible light. The central portion of the galaxy is obscured by a large amount of dust, but the dust is transparent to infrared light and we can see the structure of the galaxy much more clearly.
The infrared image reveals that the galaxy is basically a GIANT ring of new stars being formed around the core of the galaxy – which in this case is a galactic black hole. It’s the for real Ringworld, though not quite in the form that Larry Niven imagined.
From the write up in Universe Today:
“Centaurus A is believe to house a supermassive black hole that has the mass of 200 million Suns at its core, evidenced by the radio emissions streaming out from the galaxy. Previous images of the galaxy from the Spitzer Space Telescope, the ESA’s Infrared Space Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope revealed some aspects of the structure of the galaxy.
The infrared eyes of Spitzer peered partway through the dust to show a warped parallelogram, the cause of which is the gravitational disturbance caused by the merger of Centaurus A with a smaller spiral galaxy.
The presence of rings such as the one seen in Centaurus A is probably not common among other elliptical galaxies, but other such galaxies are known to exist. It’s possible that they are present during only certain periods of an elliptical galaxy’s formation after it merges with another galaxy.
Dr. Kainulainen commented on this possibility: ‘One should consider that seeing so bright ring structure is probably quite time-critical. The rings are believed to be induced by ‘a violent event’ of merging galaxies, and they may evolve rather quickly to something that no longer looks like a clear, bright ring. Therefore, they might actually be quite common for merging galaxies, but they ‘last’ only such a short time that we don’t see them in so many galaxies.'”
Read the full article here and see the difference between the visible light images and the infra-red ones.
For what it’s worth, spiral arm galaxies are also probably short lived structures that are caused by a combination of resonances in the differential rotation of the stellar systems and a collision with another galaxy.
All of which is a reminder of how vast Creation truly is. And what a wonder it is that we – creatures of star dust – have granted the ability to comprehend some of it grandeur.