The "eye" at the center of the galaxy is actually a monstrous black hole surrounded by a ring of stars. Credit: NASA/JPL

Spitzer Finds a Cyclops Galaxy!

Article Updated: 24 Dec , 2015

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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



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Torbjorn Larsson OM
Member
Torbjorn Larsson OM
July 23, 2009 3:57 PM

That companion – they found “The Mote in God’s Eye”!

And, oh, earlier they have captured “The Gripping Hand” too. Niven and Pournelle must be frantic over the prescient use of space commercials! eek

Jon Hanford
Member
Jon Hanford
July 23, 2009 6:05 PM

The companion galaxy, NGC 1097A, does indeed appear to be interacting with the parent galaxy, according to several papers published on this system over the past several years. NGC 1097 also exhibits 4(!) jets apparently aligned with the nucleus, originally detected by Halton Arp and Jean Lorre. These features in addition to the nuclear starburst ring make this a very peculiar system (and a great target for Spitzer).

Astrofiend
Member
Astrofiend
July 23, 2009 8:13 PM

Torbjorn Larsson OM Says:
July 23rd, 2009 at 3:57 pm

“That companion – they found “The Mote in God’s Eye”!”

Now now Torbjorn – worry about the plank in your own eye before you concern yourself with the mote in God’s! smile

Paul Eaton-Jones
Member
July 24, 2009 7:12 AM

What a fantastic photograph. Well said Torbjorn. There aren’t enough classical s.f. allusions on this site and goodness knows there’s ample scope for them. wink

Anaconda
Member
Anaconda
July 25, 2009 6:08 PM
Astronomers are a lot like children who won’t give up their toys. Look out for Nereid…counting…3, 2, 1… Anyway, in the mean time… “Some theories hold that the black hole might quiet down and eventually enter a more dormant state like our Milky Way black hole.” Gravity is a linear force, there shouldn’t be different “black holes”, they theoretically should act about the same…but they don’t…hmm? “The fuzzy blue dot to the left, which appears to fit snuggly between the arms, is a companion galaxy. ” Could this be a mature quasar, now companion galaxy? Is it possible quasars are ejected from galaxies and then mature into companion galaxies? “The white ring around the black hole is bursting… Read more »
Dark Gnat
Member
Dark Gnat
July 25, 2009 6:48 PM

Could the 4 jet be produced by multiple black holes in the galaxy’s center? Could that also explain the unusual structures?

Jon Hanford
Member
Jon Hanford
July 26, 2009 4:52 AM
While the origin of the jets wasn’t fully discussed in the paper I mentioned, bipolar jets from 2 black holes in the nucleus does seem possible. Rapidly precessing bipolar jets from a single black hole might also be inferred. The paper does mention that one jet seems to occur in (or produce) a HII-free region in one of the arms. Also, the brightest jet exhibits a L-shaped ‘kink’ at its farthest point from the galaxy, a truly peculiar feature! The abstract (and full paper) can be found here: http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/bib_query?1978ApJ…222L..99L . While the quality of the images is degraded from the originals published in the (paper) copy of the Astrophysical Journal, figure 1 is perhaps the best of the… Read more »
Jon Hanford
Member
Jon Hanford
July 26, 2009 6:17 AM

I should have mentioned before that other interpretations of the jets have been published, including the possibility of them forming as a result of the cannabalization of a dwarf spiral or dwarf irregular galaxy. “A Minor-Merger Interpretation for NGC 1097’s ‘Jets’ ” makes the case for tidal tails as the ‘jets’ origin. Abstract (& paper) can be found here: http://adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/bib_query?2003ApJ…585..281H . In the course of this study a second companion dwarf galaxy, NGC 1097B, was discovered.

Ivan3man_At_Large
Member
Ivan3man_At_Large
July 26, 2009 6:43 PM
Some theories hold that the black hole might quiet down and eventually enter a more dormant state like our Milky Way black hole. Anaconda: Gravity is a linear force, there shouldn’t be different “black holes”, they theoretically should act about the same…but they don’t…hmm? Err… Anaconda, you are confusing “black holes” with a black whores! Anaconda: Of course, the days when astronomers stated stars couldn’t form close in to a so-called “black hole” because of gravity tidal forces and shear have conveniently gone down the memory hole. Err… apartheid ended over 15 years ago. Anaconda: The “material”, actually plasma, charged particles, electrons & ions, undoubtedly “flows” faster than gravity can account for, whereas, the electromotive force 39 orders… Read more »
Anaconda
Member
Anaconda
July 26, 2009 11:40 PM

I’m sorry, I should have included “astronomer’s acolytes” when making comparisons to children, some just can’t help making childish comments…because they don’t have anything better to offer.

Better hand that child a rattle…so he doesn’t suck his thumb in public…(it’s too late, he’s been sucking his thumb in public ever since he learned to use the internet…)

Anaconda
Member
Anaconda
July 27, 2009 12:25 AM
Something to add, that is constructive: “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.” Is there another object that Science can compare with the white ring of new star formation in the post’s galaxy? Possibly, yes. Hoag’s object is a ring galaxy, that has a central bright galactic nucleus and a ring of blue, hot stars. (See picture of Hoag’s object at the, below, link.) There does seem to be a structural similarity between Hoag’s object and the ring of stars surrounding the galactic nucleus in the imaged galaxy in this post,… Read more »
Ivan3man_At_Large
Member
Ivan3man_At_Large
July 27, 2009 1:57 AM

Anaconda, when can we expect you to hold a press conference to announce your findings(?). I am really looking forward to reading your peer- reviewed papers on your laboratory results(!).

roll

Nereid
Member
Nereid
July 27, 2009 6:41 AM

Good to see you’re being constructive, Anaconda.

To the best of your knowledge, has any of the following published papers containing a model – of ring galaxies and rings of recent star formation around galactic nuclei – based on this idea?

Alfvén, Birkleand, Bostick, Lerner, Peratt, Scott, Talbot, Tesla.

If so, references please!

Nereid
Member
Nereid
July 27, 2009 6:53 AM
I think your blindness to numbers (innumeracy is the technical term, I believe) leads you to make statements like this Anaconda, statements that do nothing more than (once again) destroy your credibility and leave you with lots of egg on your face. Of course, the days when astronomers stated stars couldn’t form close in to a so-called “black hole” because of gravity tidal forces and shear have conveniently gone down the memory hole. At a very approximate level, a black hole’s sphere of influence wrt disrupting star formation is a few Schwartzchild radii, say the size of our solar system for the SMBH at the heart of galactic nuclei. Now the distance to the star nearest to us… Read more »
Jon Hanford
Member
Jon Hanford
July 27, 2009 7:13 AM
Anaconda, I think your confusing ring galaxies with barred spirals with an inner and outer stellar ring. Ring galaxies are indeed thought to be produced by dynamical processes (collisions with smaller companions nearly perpendicular to a galaxy’s plane of rotation). Some barred spiral galaxies are known to have inner bars or rings close to the nucleus. The paper ‘Double-Barred Galaxies’ lists 67 barred spirals with either type of inner rings/bars. The paper, with many illustrations, can be found here: http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/astro-ph/pdf/0310/0310806v2.pdf . Btw, a 2005 study using the VLT discovered that NGC 1097 does posses an inner bar not oriented with the main outer bar of the galaxy. And nuclear rings have been spotted in other types of galaxies… Read more »
Nereid
Member
Nereid
July 27, 2009 7:13 AM

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’.

Jon Hanford
Member
Jon Hanford
July 27, 2009 7:25 AM

A 2006 paper describes spectroscopic and optical observations of NGC 1097 describing material streaming from the inner bar down to within 10 pc of the nucleus (and provisionally down to 3.5 pc with HST data). This short paper has many details of gas inflow via the bar(s) of NGC 1097 to its central SMBH. Some cool pics, too smile. The paper can be found here: http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/astro-ph/pdf/0310/0310806v2.pdf .

Jon Hanford
Member
Jon Hanford
July 27, 2009 7:27 AM
DrFlimmer
Member
DrFlimmer
July 27, 2009 9:47 AM

Foresight is a great gift. I think I have it……

Btw: Anaconda, since YOU are the one how opposes the current “dogma” (to use your word), it is YOU who must show the proof. So, all your statements need to be “prooved” by you, that is to say, we want to see references. Papers, to be precise. And, indeed, papers actually dealing with your ideas and the topic at hand.
If you bring it up I will comment on your ideas (and will present papers for my statements…).

Just one (two) question(s): What will happen to a plasma if you shut down the source? (And why can I relate this to a black hole?)

Anaconda
Member
Anaconda
July 27, 2009 9:08 PM
“At a very approximate level, a black hole’s sphere of influence wrt disrupting star formation is a few Schwartzchild radii, say the size of our solar system for the SMBH at the heart of galactic nuclei.” Got any authority for that assertion? 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. And yes, I’ll take those names rather than some no name bird… Read more »
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