Image: Galactic serial killer

Apr 02, 2014
This new image from the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile shows a contrasting pair of galaxies: NGC 1316, and its smaller companion NGC 1317 (right). Although NGC 1317 seems to have had a peaceful existence, its larger neighbor bears the scars of earlier mergers with other galaxies. Credit: ESO

This new image from the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile shows two contrasting galaxies: NGC 1316, and its smaller neighbour NGC 1317. These two are quite close to each other in space, but they have very different histories. The small spiral NGC 1317 has led an uneventful life, but NGC 1316 has engulfed several other galaxies in its violent history and shows the battle scars.

Several clues in the structure of NGC 1316 reveal that its past was turbulent. For instance, it has some unusual dust lanes embedded within a much larger envelope of stars, and a population of unusually small globular star clusters. These suggest that it may have already swallowed a dust-rich spiral galaxy about three billion years ago.

Also seen around the galaxy are very faint tidal tails—wisps and shells of stars that have been torn from their original locations and flung into intergalactic space. These features are produced by complex gravitational effects on the orbits of stars when another galaxy comes too close. All of these signs point to a violent past during which NGC 1316 annexed other galaxies and suggest that the disruptive behaviour is continuing.

NGC 1316 is located about 60 million light-years away from Earth in the southern constellation of Fornax (The Furnace). It also bears the name Fornax A, reflecting the fact that it is the brightest source of in the constellation—and in fact the fourth brightest radio source in the entire sky. This radio emission is driven by material falling into the at the centre of the galaxy and has probably been provided with extra fuel by the interactions with other galaxies.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
This zoom starts with a wide spread of sky, including the familiar constellation of Orion (The Hunter) at the upper right and the Large Magellanic Cloud at the upper left. We then close in on the less dramatic constellation of Fornax (The Furnace) and see two galaxies close together. These are the contrasting pair of galaxies NGC 1316 and the smaller 1317. Although NGC 1317 appears to be relative unperturbed, its larger neighbour bears the scars of a turbulent history during which it has engulfed smaller galaxies. Credit: ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2/A. Fujii/Nick Risinger (skysurvey.org). Music: movetwo

This very detailed new image from the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile was created by combining many individual images in the ESO archive. The aim of the original observations was to reveal the faintest features and study the disruption of this interesting system.

As a bonus the new picture also provides a window into the distant Universe far beyond the two bright galaxies in the foreground. Most of the faint fuzzy spots in the picture are much more distant galaxies—and there is a particularly dense concentration just to the left of NGC 1316.

Explore further: Image: Hubble peers at the heart of NGC 5793

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Image: Hubble peers at the heart of NGC 5793

Mar 24, 2014

(Phys.org) —This new Hubble image is centered on NGC 5793, a spiral galaxy over 150 million light-years away in the constellation of Libra. This galaxy has two particularly striking features: a beautiful ...

A spiral galaxy that resembles our Milky Way

Jun 01, 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 ...

Hubble view of a special spiral galaxy

Oct 24, 2013

(Phys.org) —The image, captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows part of NGC 3621, an unusual spiral galaxy located over 20 million light-years away in the constellation of Hydra (The Water ...

NASA's Hubble sees a stranger in the crowd

Jul 22, 2013

The constellation of Virgo (The Virgin) is the largest of the Zodiac constellations, and the second largest overall after Hydra (The Water Snake). Its most appealing feature, however, is the sheer number ...

Image: Hot gas sloshing in a galactic cauldron

Nov 19, 2013

(Phys.org) —Galaxies are social beasts that are mostly found in groups or clusters – large assemblies of galaxies that are permeated by even larger amounts of diffuse gas. With temperatures of 10 million ...

Recommended for you

Swirling electrons in the whirlpool galaxy

9 hours ago

The whirlpool galaxy Messier 51 (M51) is seen from a distance of approximately 30 million light years. This galaxy appears almost face-on and displays a beautiful system of spiral arms.

A spectacular landscape of star formation

15 hours ago

This image, captured by the Wide Field Imager at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile, shows two dramatic star formation regions in the Milky Way. The first, on the left, is dominated by the star cluster NGC ...

Exoplanet measured with remarkable precision

Aug 19, 2014

Barely 30 years ago, the only planets astronomers had found were located right here in our own solar system. The Milky Way is chock-full of stars, millions of them similar to our own sun. Yet the tally ...

New star catalog reveals unexpected 'solar salad'

Aug 19, 2014

(Phys.org) —An Arizona State University alumnus has devised the largest catalog ever produced for stellar compositions. Called the Hypatia Catalog, after one of the first female astronomers who lived in ...

User comments : 0