Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Dwarf Galaxy IC 776 in Virgo: On the Hunt for X-rays | Hubble

Dwarf Galaxy IC 776 in Virgo: On the Hunt for X-rays | Hubble

This is the dwarf galaxy IC 776. It is a swirling collection of stars new and old located in the constellation Virgo—in fact, in the Virgo galaxy cluster—100 million light-years from Earth. While a dwarf galaxy, it is also been classified as an SAB-type or ‘weakly barred’ spiral, one study naming it a “complex case” in morphology. This highly detailed view from Hubble demonstrates that complexity well. IC 776 has a ragged, disturbed disc that nevertheless looks to spiral around the core, and arcs of star-forming regions.

This image is from an observation program dedicated to the study of dwarf galaxies in the Virgo cluster, searching for sources of X-rays in such galaxies. X-rays are often emitted by accretion discs, where material that is drawn into a compact object by gravity crashes together and forms a hot, glowing disc. The compact object can be a white dwarf or neutron star in a binary pair, stealing material from its companion star, or it can be the supermassive black hole at the heart of a galaxy, devouring all around it. Dwarf galaxies like IC 776, travelling through the Virgo cluster, experience a pressure from the intergalactic gas which can both stimulate star formation and feed the central black hole in a galaxy. That can create energetic accretion discs, hot enough to emit X-rays.

While Hubble is not able to see X-rays, it can coordinate with X-ray telescopes, such as NASA’s Chandra, revealing the sources of this radiation in high resolution using visible light. Dwarf galaxies are thought to be very important for our understanding of cosmology and the evolution of galaxies. As with many areas of astronomy, the ability to examine these galaxies across the electromagnetic spectrum is critical to their study.

Image Description: A spiral galaxy viewed tilted at a diagonal angle. The core and the disc of the galaxy are different colors, but are otherwise difficult to tell apart, with the disc having wispy, ragged edges and many arcs of glowing star-forming patches. A few distant galaxies can be seen in the background around the spiral galaxy, as well as several foreground stars.

Credit: European Space Agency (ESA)/Hubble & NASA, M. Sun    

Release Date: April 29, 2024

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