NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has imaged this 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 Way, with 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.
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Active galaxies have cores that glow brightly, powered by supermassive black holes swallowing stars and other material, and often spit twin jets in opposite directions. In contrast, the Milky Way's center shows little activity. But apparently, according to experts at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, it wasn't always so quiet. New evidence of ghostly gamma-ray beams suggests that the Milky Way's central black hole has been much more active in the past.
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A new study suggests the presence of an ocean under the icy shell of Neptune's moon, Triton, which will make it the outermost known ocean in our solar system. At an average temperature of -97° C, this ammonia-rich ocean was sustained over 4.5 billion years by tidal blanketing and radiogenic heating. The ammonia keeps the liquid from freezing unless the temperature drops below about -90 °C.
The composite NASA illustration above shows Neptune as seen from Triton. Neptune's south pole is to the left; clearly visible in the planets' southern hemisphere is a Great Dark Spot, a large anti-cyclonic storm system. This three-dimensional view was created using images from the Voyager spacecraft.
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Galactic clusters are congregations of stars that are relatively young, born near the galactic plane of the Milky Way galaxy. These clusters of stars typically dwindle in numbers as they are pulled apart by gravitational forces. M46 above is a cluster of a few hundred stars about 300 million years young, and spans about 30 light years across located roughly 5000 light years away toward the constellation Puppis.
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Using supercomputers at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), Sukanya Chakrabarti, a professor of physics at Florida Atlantic University and an Institute for Theory and Computation (ITC) Fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, developed a mathematical method to uncover “dark” satellites. When she applied this method to our own Milky Way galaxy, Chakrabarti discovered a faint satellite might be lurking on the opposite side of the galaxy from Earth, approximately 300,000 light-years from the galactic center.
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NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captured this image of the spiral galaxy known as ESO 498-G5. One interesting feature of this galaxy is that its spiral arms wind all the way into the center, so that ESO 498-G5's core looks like a bit like a miniature spiral galaxy. This sort of structure is in contrast to the elliptical star-filled centers (or bulges) of many other spiral galaxies, which instead appear as glowing masses.
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An international collaboration of scientists has reported in landmark detail the decay process of a subatomic particle called a kaon – information that may help answer fundamental questions about how the universe began. The research used breakthrough techniques on some of the world’s fastest supercomputers to expand on a 1964 Nobel Prize-winning experiment. A new generation of IBM supercomputers now being installed will allow scientists to calculate the decay in even greater detail.
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