NGC 4710 galaxy: Baffling boxy bulge (w/ Video)

Nov 18, 2009
Still an astrophysical mystery, the evolution of the bulges in spiral galaxies led astronomers to the edge-on galaxy NGC 4710. When staring directly at the centre of the galaxy, one can detect a faint, ethereal "X"-shaped structure. Such a feature, which astronomers call a "boxy" or "peanut-shaped" bulge, is due to the vertical motions of the stars in the galaxy's bar and is only evident when the galaxy is seen edge-on. This curiously shaped puff is often observed in spiral galaxies with small bulges and open arms, but is less common in spirals with arms tightly wrapped around a more prominent bulge, such as NGC 4710. Credit: NASA & ESA

(PhysOrg.com) -- Just as many people are surprised to find themselves packing on unexplained weight around the middle, astronomers find the evolution of bulges in the centres of spiral galaxies puzzling. A recent NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image of NGC 4710 is part of a survey that astronomers have conducted to learn more about the formation of bulges, which are a substantial component of most spiral galaxies.

When targeting bulges, astronomers often seek edge-on galaxies, as their bulges are more easily distinguishable from the disc. This exceptionally detailed edge-on view of NGC 4710 taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) aboard Hubble reveals the galaxy's bulge in the brightly coloured centre. The luminous, elongated white plane that runs through the bulge is the galaxy disc. The disc and bulge are surrounded by eerie-looking dust lanes.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
Zooming in on NGC 4710, an edge-on galaxy, located in the constellation of Coma Berenices (Berenice’s Hair). The galaxy’s bulge is located in the brightly coloured centre. When staring directly at the centre of the galaxy, one can detect a faint, ethereal “X”-shaped structure. Such a feature, which astronomers call a “boxy” or “peanut-shaped” bulge, is due to the vertical motions of the stars in the galaxy’s bar and is only evident when the galaxy is seen edge-on. This curiously shaped puff is often observed in spiral galaxies with small bulges and open arms, but is less common in spirals with arms tightly wrapped around a more prominent bulge, such as NGC 4710. Credit: ESA/Hubble

When staring directly at the centre of the galaxy, one can detect a faint, ethereal "X"-shaped structure. Such a feature, which astronomers call a "boxy" or "peanut-shaped" bulge, is due to the vertical motions of the stars in the galaxy's bar and is only evident when the galaxy is seen edge-on. This curiously shaped puff is often observed in spiral galaxies with small bulges and open arms, but is less common in spirals with arms tightly wrapped around a more prominent bulge, such as NGC 4710.

NGC 4710 is a member of the giant Virgo Cluster of galaxies and lies in the northern constellation of Coma Berenices (the Hair of Queen Berenice). It is not one of the brightest members of the cluster, but can easily be seen as a dim elongated smudge on a dark night with a medium-sized . In the 1780s, William Herschel discovered the galaxy and noted it simply as a "faint nebula". It lies about 60 million light-years from the Earth and is an example of a lenticular or S0-type galaxy - a type that seems to have some characteristics of both spiral and elliptical galaxies.

Astronomers are scrutinising these systems to determine how many globular clusters they host. Globular clusters are thought to represent an indication of the processes that can build bulges. Two quite different processes are believed to be at play regarding the formation of bulges in spiral : either they formed rather rapidly in the early Universe, before the spiral disc and arms formed; or they built up from material accumulating from the disc during a slow and long evolution. In this case of NGC 4710, researchers have spotted very few globular clusters associated with the bulge, indicating that its assembly mainly involved relatively slow processes.

Source: European Space Agency (news : web)

Explore further: Compact galaxy groups reveal details of their close encounters

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Hubble Sees Galaxy on Edge

Jun 08, 2006

This is a unique NASA Hubble Space Telescope view of the disk galaxy NGC 5866 tilted nearly edge-on to our line-of-sight.

Hubble's sweeping view of the Coma Galaxy Cluster

Jun 10, 2008

Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys has observed a large portion of the Coma Cluster, stretching across several million light-years. The entire cluster is more than 20 million light-years in diameter, is ...

Stars forced to relocate near the Southern Fish

Mar 03, 2009

About 100 million light-years away, in the constellation of Piscis Austrinus (the Southern Fish), three galaxies are playing a game of gravitational give-and-take that might ultimately lead to their merger ...

Hubble photographs grand spiral galaxy Messier 81

May 29, 2007

The beautiful galaxy Messier 81 is tilted at an oblique angle on to our line of sight, giving a "birds-eye view" of the spiral structure. The galaxy is similar to our Milky Way, but our favourable view provides ...

Hubble's view of barred spiral galaxy NGC 1672

Apr 03, 2007

NGC 1672, visible from the Southern Hemisphere, is seen almost face on and shows regions of intense star formation. The greatest concentrations of star formation are found in the so-called starburst regions ...

Recommended for you

Kepler proves it can still find planets

8 hours ago

To paraphrase Mark Twain, the report of the Kepler spacecraft's death was greatly exaggerated. Despite a malfunction that ended its primary mission in May 2013, Kepler is still alive and working. The evidence ...

The hot blue stars of Messier 47

Dec 17, 2014

Messier 47 is located approximately 1600 light-years from Earth, in the constellation of Puppis (the poop deck of the mythological ship Argo). It was first noticed some time before 1654 by Italian astronomer ...

User comments : 0

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.