Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Galaxy NGC 3621: Full of Surprises & Three Black Holes | ESO

Galaxy NGC 3621: Full of Surprises & Three Black Holes | ESO

This image, from the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), shows a truly remarkable galaxy known as NGC 3621. To begin with, it is a pure-disc galaxy. Like other spirals, it has a flat disc permeated by dark lanes of material and with prominent spiral arms where young stars are forming in clusters (the blue dots seen in the image). But while most spiral galaxies have a central bulge—a large group of old stars packed in a compact, spheroidal region—NGC 3621 does not. In this image, it is clear that there is simply a brightening to the center, but no actual bulge.

Distance: 22 million light years

NGC 3621 is also interesting as it is believed to have an active supermassive black hole at its center that is engulfing matter and producing radiation. This is somewhat unusual because most of these so-called active galactic nuclei exist in galaxies with prominent bulges. In this particular case, the supermassive black hole is thought to have a relatively small mass, of around 20,000 times that of the Sun.

Another interesting feature is that there are also thought to be two smaller black holes, with masses of a few thousand times that of the Sun, near the nucleus of the galaxy. Therefore, NGC 3621 is an extremely interesting object which, despite not having a central bulge, has a system of three black holes in its central region.

This galaxy is located in the constellation of Hydra (The Sea Snake) and can be seen with a moderate-sized telescope. This image, taken using B, V, and I filters with the FORS1 instrument on the powerful Very Large Telescope (VLT), shows striking detail in this odd object and also reveals a multitude of background galaxies. A number of bright foreground stars that belong to our own Milky Way are also visible.

Credit: European Southern Observatory (ESO)

Release Date: November 28, 2011

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