A blue whirlpool in The River: Tranquil galaxy home to violent events

August 1, 2012
This picture taken with ESO’s Very Large Telescope shows the galaxy NGC 1187. This impressive spiral lies about 60 million light-years away in the constellation of Eridanus (The River). NGC 1187 has hosted two supernova explosions during the last thirty years, the latest one in 2007. Credit: ESO

(Phys.org) -- A new image taken with ESO’s Very Large Telescope shows the galaxy NGC 1187. This impressive spiral lies about 60 million light-years away in the constellation of Eridanus (The River). NGC 1187 has hosted two supernova explosions during the last thirty years, the latest one in 2007. This picture of the galaxy is the most detailed ever taken.

The galaxy NGC 1187 is seen almost face-on, which gives us a good view of its spiral structure. About half a dozen prominent spiral arms can be seen, each containing large amounts of gas and dust. The bluish features in the spiral arms indicate the presence of young stars born out of clouds of interstellar gas.

Looking towards the central regions, we see the bulge of the galaxy glowing yellow. This part of the galaxy is mostly made up of old stars, gas and dust. In the case of NGC 1187, rather than a round bulge, there is a subtle central bar structure. Such bar features are thought to act as mechanisms that channel gas from the spiral arms to the centre, enhancing star formation there.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
This zoom video sequence starts with a wide view of the large but faint constellation of Eridanus (The River), not far from the more familiar form of Orion (The Hunter). As we zoom in we see a small patch of light that proves to be an attractive spiral galaxy named NGC 1187. The detailed final view shows a new VLT image of this object. Credit: ESO/A. Fujii/Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgment: Davide De Martin. Music: Disasterpeace

Around the outside of the galaxy many much fainter and more distant can also be seen. Some even shine right through the disc of NGC 1187 itself. Their mostly reddish hues contrast with the pale blue star clusters of the much closer object.

NGC 1187 looks tranquil and unchanging, but it has hosted two supernovae explosions since 1982. A supernova is a violent stellar explosion, resulting from the death of either a massive star or a white dwarf in a binary system. Supernovae are amongst the most energetic events in the Universe and are so bright that they often briefly outshine an entire galaxy before fading from view over several weeks or months. During this short period a supernova can radiate as much energy as the Sun is expected to emit over its entire life span.

In October 1982, the first supernova seen in NGC 1187 — SN 1982R was discovered at ESO's La Silla Observatory and more recently, in 2007, the amateur astronomer Berto Monard in South Africa spotted another supernova in this galaxy — SN 2007Y. A team of astronomers subsequently performed a detailed study and monitored SN 2007Y for about a year using many different telescopes. This new image of NGC 1187 was created from observations taken as part of this study and the supernova can be seen, long after the time of maximum brightness, near the bottom of the image.

These data were acquired using the FORS1 instrument attached to the ESO's Very Large Telescope at the Paranal Observatory in Chile.

Explore further: Hubble Snaps Images of a Pinwheel-Shaped Galaxy

More information: Further information about SN 2007Y is available in a paper by Stritzinger et al. arxiv.org/pdf/0902.0609v2.pdf

Related Stories

Hubble Snaps Images of a Pinwheel-Shaped Galaxy

February 7, 2006

Looking like a child's pinwheel ready to be set a spinning by a gentle breeze, this dramatic spiral galaxy is one of the latest viewed by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Stunning details of the face-on spiral galaxy, cataloged ...

The purple rose of Virgo

March 27, 2007

Until now NGC 5584 was just one galaxy among many others, located to the West of the Virgo Cluster. Known only as a number in galaxy surveys, its sheer beauty is now revealed in all its glory in a new VLT image. Since 1 March, ...

Spiral galaxies stripped bare

October 27, 2010

Six spectacular spiral galaxies are seen in a clear new light in images from ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile. The pictures were taken in infrared light, using the impressive power ...

A disturbed galactic duo

April 20, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The galaxies in this cosmic pairing, captured by the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile, display some curious features, demonstrating that each member ...

A spiral galaxy that resembles our Milky Way

June 1, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- ESO astronomers have used the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope to capture an image of NGC 6744. This impressive spiral galaxy lies about 30 million light-years away in the southern constellation ...

A spiral galaxy in Hydra

April 9, 2012

(Phys.org) -- This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows NGC 4980, a spiral galaxy in the southern constellation of Hydra. The shape of NGC 4980 appears slightly deformed, something which is often a sign of ...

Recommended for you

Born-again planetary nebula

July 28, 2015

Beneath the vivid hues of this eye-shaped cloud, named Abell 78, a tale of stellar life and death is unfolding. At the centre of the nebula, a dying star – not unlike our Sun – which shed its outer layers on its way to ...

'Bathtub rings' suggest Titan's dynamic seas

July 28, 2015

Saturn's moon, Titan, is the only object in the Solar System other than Earth known to have liquid on its surface. While most of the lakes are found around the poles, the dry regions near the equator contain signs of evaporated ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.