Spitzer Finds a Cyclops Galaxy!

by Nancy Atkinson on July 23, 2009

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The "eye" at the center of the galaxy is actually a monstrous black hole surrounded by a ring of stars. Credit: NASA/JPL
Imagine peering through your telescope and having a wild creature with one Cyclops-like eye looking back at you! NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope saw just that when it located galaxy NGC 1097, about 50 million light-years away. It has long, spindly arms of stars, and its one “eye” at the center of the galaxy is actually a monstrous black hole surrounded by a ring of stars. Plus, this creature looks to be carrying a smaller blue galaxy in its arms!

The black hole is huge, about 100 million times the mass of our sun, and is feeding off gas and dust along with the occasional unlucky star. Our Milky Way’s central black hole is tame by comparison, with a mass of a few million suns.

“The fate of this black hole and others like it is an active area of research,” said George Helou, deputy director of NASA’s Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. “Some theories hold that the black hole might quiet down and eventually enter a more dormant state like our Milky Way black hole.”

The fuzzy blue dot to the left, which appears to fit snuggly between the arms, is a companion galaxy.

“The companion galaxy that looks as if it’s playing peek-a-boo through the larger galaxy could have plunged through, poking a hole,” said Helou. “But we don’t know this for sure. It could also just happen to be aligned with a gap in the arms.”

Other dots in the picture are either nearby stars in our galaxy, or distant galaxies.

The white ring around the black hole is bursting with new star formation. An inflow of material toward the central bar of the galaxy is causing the ring to light up with new stars.

“The ring itself is a fascinating object worthy of study because it is forming stars at a very high rate,” said Kartik Sheth, an astronomer at NASA’s Spitzer Science Center. Sheth and Helou are part of a team that made the observations.

In the Spitzer image, infrared light with shorter wavelengths is blue, while longer-wavelength light is red. The galaxy’s red spiral arms and the swirling spokes seen between the arms show dust heated by newborn stars. Older populations of stars scattered through the galaxy are blue.

This image was taken during Spitzer’s “cold mission,” which lasted more than five-and-a-half years. The telescope ran out of coolant needed to chill its infrared instruments on May 15, 2009. Two of its infrared channels will still work perfectly during the new “warm mission,” which is expected to begin in a week or so, once the observatory has been recalibrated and warms to its new temperature of around 30 Kelvin (about minus 406 degrees Fahrenheit).

Source: JPL

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also is the host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast and works with Astronomy Cast. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Anaconda July 27, 2009 at 9:52 PM

Jon Hanford mentions “jets”, well, a deep plasma focus does produce jets (see link below):

http://focusfusion.org/assets/animation/Foki1a2.gif

Notice the strong “collapse” of the plasma then the two “jets” in opposite directions along the axial plane.

Yes, “jets” have been demonstrated in the laboratory.

IVAN3MAN July 27, 2009 at 11:23 PM

Nereid:

At a very approximate level, a black hole’s sphere of influence wrt disrupting star formation is a few [Schwarzschild] radii, say the size of our solar system for the SMBH at the heart of galactic nuclei.

Anaconda:

Got any authority for that assertion?

FWIW: Schwarzschild radius.

Anaconda:

You’re a no name bird dogger that has nothing better to do, Nereid.

.
Then WTF do you call “Anaconda”, Anaconda?

DrFlimmer July 28, 2009 at 2:59 AM

Anaconda, are you serious or are you kidding us?

:-D

Hannes July 28, 2009 at 11:45 AM

This “ring of stars” seems to confirm the hypothesized circumnuclear molecular torus (Antonucci, 1993) but it is in my view just an optical illusion.

We are looking straight in a set of two corkscrewlike arms.

Look here for a comparison: http://www.nrao.edu/pr/2004/ss433corkscrew/

Anaconda July 28, 2009 at 12:29 PM

@ Ivan3Man:

Yes, there is some incongruity in my statement about a “no name bird dogger”

I’m sure some would say, “That’s exactly what Anaconda is.”

Okay, but I’m not bird dogging an individual, I’m offering alternative analysis & interpretation of physical objects and processes.

Nereid, offered the thinest of supporting reasons. for saying, “No, it is not possible…”

And as for my request for authority, Nereid likes to constantly inquire about authority — still she makes a sweeping assertion with…you guessed it…no authority.

A Schwarzschild radius is theoretical at best, since no one has ever observed a so-called “event horizon” and…oh…so conveniently, it can’t be even theoretically observed to begin with…that’s why one has never been observed…like I said…so convenient.

In regards to star formation according to the gravity model, it needs a relatively quiet region in which to form, I haven’t read anything about Schwarzschild radius (perhaps somebody can provide some authority), rather, what I have read is about astronomers statin, “stars couldn’t form close in to a so-called “black hole” because of gravity tidal forces and shear”, which has as much to do with the motions of plasma (gas) in a given region as it does with the gravity, itself.

Stars are a result of “Z-pinches”, yes. so multiple stars require multiple Z-pinches or “recurring” Z-pinches.

Too hard for you to understand, Nereid?

Notice, Nereid, had nothing to say about this passage:

“As stated, above, toroidal, ring structures are common in plasma physics, as has been demonstrated in the laboratory and observed around the Sun as a visible toroid during solar maximum and even around the Earth as observed in the Van Allen radiation belts (actually toroidal, plasma current rings).”

And that was the exhibits of already observed & known objects I was comparing to.

You see, basic science: Comparing the unknown to already known objects.

And Nereid was silent to that because she knows as well as I do these objects have already been determined to be plasma phenomenon under the control of electromagnetic forces.

IVAN3MAN July 28, 2009 at 9:01 PM

Anaconda:

A Schwarzschild radius is theoretical at best, since no one has ever observed a so-called “event horizon” and…oh…so conveniently, it can’t be even theoretically observed to begin with…that’s why one has never been observed…like I said…so convenient.

[...]

Stars are a result of “Z-pinches”, yes. so multiple stars require multiple Z-pinches or “recurring” Z-pinches.

It is hypocritical of you, on one hand, to demand absolute proof of an “event horizon” observation, but, on the other hand, to insist that “Stars are the result of ‘Z-pinches’”, without providing any bloody evidence whatsoever — Z-pinches require a source of power!

Anaconda:

Could it be that both explanations are wrong, and, rather, both rings are due to a similar cause or process, but at different scales?

This would seem a reasonable possibility.

And could this cause be electromagnetic in nature?

As stated, above, toroidal, ring structures are common in plasma physics, as has been demonstrated in the laboratory and observed around the Sun as a visible toroid during solar maximum and even around the Earth as observed in the Van Allen radiation belts (actually toroidal, plasma current rings).

Similarity in structures often suggests similarity of dynamics or process that form the structures.

So are you implying that toroidal ring structures are only observed in plasma physics?

Well, tell that to these creatures here.

IVAN3MAN July 28, 2009 at 9:14 PM

Goddamn it — I’ve messed-up that link! When the bloody hell are we going to get a preview/edit facility here, like they now have at Bad Astronomy?!

Now here is the correct link to those creatures referred to above.

IVAN3MAN July 28, 2009 at 9:27 PM

Also, here is a link to the physics of bubble rings.

ND July 28, 2009 at 10:09 PM

IVAN3MAN, nice video! I like the flip that the dolphin gives the rign at 45seconds.

Of course those toruses are created by Birkeland currents emitted by the dolphins. Let’s not kid ourselves. This hypothesis is so self-evident, it has to be true!

IVAN3MAN July 29, 2009 at 2:23 AM

Thanks, ND! It’s amusing to see dolphins amusing themselves.

Nereid July 29, 2009 at 3:33 AM

It would be nice if you could quote the whole of what I said, Anaconda. You see, OilIsMastery/Total Science, for one, was in the habit of quoting out of context (or, in some cases, even worse, deliberately misquoting). It is a very foolish thing to do, because it totally destroys one’s credibility.

Nereid presents my [Anaconda's] statement: “Is it possible quasars are ejected from galaxies and then mature into companion galaxies?”

And Nereid responds: “No, it is not possible…”

You know what?

I’ll take Halton Arp’s hypothesis over some nameless commenter’s assertion any day.

Because you know what?

Halton Arp proposed that hypothesis.

You’re a no name bird dogger that has nothing better to do, Nereid.

Here’s the whole para of mine, that you quoted, Anaconda:

No, it is not possible … unless you wish to propose that that ‘quasars’ is a heterogeneous class. Would you be interested in learning more about this?

(bold added)
In a different UT story comment, you wrote “You can delude yourself if you want, but I’ll follow the scientific evidence where it leads.

If that’s so, then why not say “Yes, Nereid, I would be interesting in learning more about why Arp’s idea is not possible, unless one proposes that quasars are a hetereogenous class“?

Now in the interests of following the scientific evidence where it leads, would you mind answering this question for me please?

To the best of your knowledge, has any of the following published papers containing a model – of rings of recent star formation around galactic nuclei due to “recurring Z-pinches”– based on this idea?

Alfvén, Birkleand, Bostick, Lerner, Peratt, Scott, Talbot, Tesla. [ETA: Some more names to add to the list: Anaconda, Arp, Crothers, Fälthammar, mgmirkin, Ratcliffe, Dave Smith, solrey, Thornhill, Tifft, Ian Tresman, Verschuur, Wolf. And 'Talbot' should be 'Talbott'.]

If so, references please!

Nereid July 29, 2009 at 3:41 AM

Here’s a bald Anaconda claim:

Stars are a result of “Z-pinches”, yes.

And who made this claim? Why “a no name bird dogger that has nothing better to do“! :-)

So what is the scientific evidence that lead you to this remarkable conclusion Anaconda?

Or is merely asking such a question “bird dogging”?

Nereid July 29, 2009 at 3:51 AM

It would have been very rude of me to comment on it Anaconda, without first having read any material (by Arp, … Wolf) on how rings of recent star formation around galactic nuclei are due to “recurring Z-pinches”.

After all, no point in commenting on morphological similarities if your suggested electromagnetic processes cannot form rings of stars, is there?

Notice, Nereid, had nothing to say about this passage:

“As stated, above, toroidal, ring structures are common in plasma physics, as has been demonstrated in the laboratory and observed around the Sun as a visible toroid during solar maximum and even around the Earth as observed in the Van Allen radiation belts (actually toroidal, plasma current rings).”

And that was the exhibits of already observed & known objects I was comparing to.

You see, basic science: Comparing the unknown to already known objects.

And Nereid was silent to that because she knows as well as I do these objects have already been determined to be plasma phenomenon under the control of electromagnetic forces.

Or do you, perhaps, think it is still “basic science” to pursue morphological similarities simply because of such similarities, even in the absence of a demonstration that rings of stars can form by z-pinches?

DrFlimmer July 29, 2009 at 5:00 AM

Anaconda, YOUR references and sources, please? (especially for the ideas you proposed here and not some general things about plasmas)

Jon Hanford July 29, 2009 at 2:05 PM

I find it interesting that EU ‘enthusiasts’ will cite literature from Arp’s body of peer-reviewed published papers as some sort of evidence for the supremacy of ‘Electric Cosmology’. AFAIK, Arp makes no such explicit claims in his papers or books. I’ve read many of Arp’s published papers( from the early 60′s to the 00′s) and several of his books and haven’t seen any mention of EU, Z-pinches, plasmoids, etc. So now EU’ers are proposing some hodge-podge of 2 (or more) unrelated theories as a viable explanation of all observed astrophysical phenomena. Any references to any published papers by Arp specifically mentioning Z-pinches, plasmoids, ‘Electric Universe’ and in what context he uses these terms? I’d be interested in any links to peer-reviewed, published work by Arp himself explicitly endorsing and explaining these processes.

Jon Hanford July 29, 2009 at 2:55 PM

Concerning the “jets” observed in NGC 1097, these too may not be what they seem. In my post above linking to the ‘minor-merger’ interpretation of the “jet”, the authors point out that “neither bremsstrahlung nor synchrotron emission can reproduce the observed SED” and “The jets’ radio to x-ray SED is most consistent with starlight”, not plasma. They note that the jets lack HI and HII and and that “Jets R1 and R2 are not precisely linear structures but slightly curved (ref Arp 1976)”. And the jets are not detected in x-rays or radio frequencies! All these observations add up to make these “jets” totally unlike those seen in M 87, Cen A and 3C 273 and are not likely to be manifestations of bipolar jets from the central SMBH. In fact, the two bipolar “jets” actually intersect several arcseconds from the nucleus of NGC 1097. The ADS link to the paper here: http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/bib_query?2003ApJ…585..281H . After reading this (and a couple of related papers) on the “jets”, the minor-merger explanation seems to fit the observations better than the BH jet interpretation.

Nereid July 29, 2009 at 4:25 PM

AFAIK, Arp makes no such explicit claims in his papers or books. I’ve read many of Arp’s published papers( from the early 60′s to the 00′s) and several of his books and haven’t seen any mention of EU, Z-pinches, plasmoids, etc.

IIRC, questions about this were put to self-proclaimed proponents of EU ideas on BAUT Forum’s ATM section … and no one could come up with anything in Arp’s published material! :-)

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, of course, but if ardent fans of EU ideas have failed to find it …

Further, Arp’s own non-standard ideas in astrophysics seem to have little, if anything, in common with those of EU proponents.

The same thing, btw, seems to be true of two others who are, it seems, frequently cited by EU proponents, Tifft and Wolf.

IVAN3MAN July 29, 2009 at 5:32 PM

Nereid:

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, of course, but if ardent fans of EU ideas have failed to find it …

Probably their dog ate it…

ND July 30, 2009 at 2:05 PM

Jiminy the Cricket says “Show me the money!” Or in this case references and sources.

Jon Hanford August 4, 2009 at 8:56 AM

A recent paper appeared at the arXiv.org site entitled “AINUR: Atlas of Images of NUclear Rings” (link to abstract & full-resolution images here: http://arxiv.org/abs/0908.0272 ) that has a great overview of nuclear rings in galaxies and a numerous examples of such, including NGC 1097. This work presents a great atlas of all known nuclear rings in galaxies that highlight the diversity of nuclear rings and the types of galaxies in which they are found. And no mention of multiple Z-pinches, plasmoids, or other EU ‘phenomena’ :).

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