Journey Inside M104

Article written: 15 Mar , 2009
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
by

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Almost every amateur astronomer is familiar with the Sombrero Galaxy (also known as M104 or NGC 4594) – an unbarred spiral galaxy in the constellation Virgo. We’ve seen it in both small and large telescopes, picked up its ghostly signature in binoculars and dreamed over its structure in photographs. Now, for the first time ever, Jukka Metsavainio is giving us the opportunity to visualize what it might be like to approach this amazing galaxy from space and see it in dimension. Step inside and let’s learn.

Like all our our “stereo” image produced for UT by Jukka Metsavainio, two versions are presented here. The one above is parallel vision – where you relax your eyes and when you are a certain distance from the monitor screen the two images will merge into one to produce a 3D version. The second – which appears below – is crossed vision. This is for those who have better success crossing their eyes to form a third, central image where the dimensional effect occurs. Jukka’s visualizations of what M104 would look like if we were able to see it in dimension comes from studying the object, photographing it, knowing the field star distances and the different wavelengths of light. Are you ready to “cross” the boundary? Then let’s rock…

Sombrero Cross by Jukka Metsavainio

Sombrero Cross by Jukka Metsavainio


Discovered by Pierre Mechain in 1781 and added by Charles Messier’s own hand to his personal notes on May 11, 1781, Messier Object 104 wasn’t officially added to the official catalog of Messier objects until 1921 by Camille Flammarion. Although Messier had already ended his studies, he hadn’t quite ended his fascination with the sky and when Pierre discovered this amazing galaxy, he confirmed his observation by adding his description of a “very faint nebula” to the records. On May 9, 1784 – almost three years later to the date – Sir William Herschel independently recovered the galaxy and whose notes state: “Extended [elongated]. Very bright toward the middle. 5 or 6′ long.”

By 1828, John Herschel was seeing things much differently: “There is a faint diffused oval light all about it, and I am almost positive that there is a dark interval or stratum separating the nucleus and general mass of the nebula from the light above (s of) it. Surely no illusion.” Then Emil Dreyer in 1877: “Remarkable, very bright, very large, extremely extended toward position angle 92 deg, very suddenly much brighter toward the middle where there is a nucleus.” And the results of Curtis from the same year “A remarkable, slightly curved, clear-cut dark lane runs along the entire length to the south of the nucleus; probably the finest known example of this phenomenon. There are very slight traces of spiral whorls.” But it was 1912 and Vesto M. Slipher at Lowell Observatory who was about to make the most amazing discovery of all…

During 1910, Slipher (and later Carl Wirtz) was the first to use a spectroscope to observe the radial velocities of galaxies. What Vesto noticed was that M104 appeared to be cruising away from Earth at 700 miles per second. Such an tremendous speed was an important clue that the Sombrero was really another galaxy, and that the universe was expanding in all directions – but they didn’t know that at the time. At home (within our Milky Way galaxy) noted redshifts almost always correspond to the line of sight velocities associated with the objects being observed. These observations of redshifts and blueshifts have allowed science to measure velocities by a method first designed in 1868 by British astronomer William Huggins. Redshift is also an important tool to measure the velocity of gas of interstellar clouds, the rotation of galaxies, and the actions of accretion around neutron stars and black holes.

What we know now is there’s a supermassive black hole at the center of the Sombrero… one of the most massive black holes measured in any nearby galaxies. According the the findings by a research group led by John Kormendy and using spectroscopy data from both the CFHT and the Hubble Space Telescope, the group showed that the speed of rotation of the stars within the center of the galaxy could not be maintained unless a mass 1 billion times the mass of the Sun was present at the core. No wonder the eye is drawn there! The nucleus is also a strong source of synchrotron emission – produced when high velocity electrons oscillate as they pass through regions with strong magnetic fields. Although we can’t see radio waves, the low ionization nuclear emission region (LINER) at M104’s heart may be the energy source that weakly ionizes the gas in the Sombrero Galaxy.

And what of the dark dust ring? It’s cold atomic hydrogen gas. According to infrared spectroscopic studies, it’s the primary site for star formation and not the amazing nucleus. “The brightest infrared sources in the galaxy are the nucleus and the dust ring. The spectral energy distribution of the AGN demonstrates that, while the environment around the AGN is a prominent source of mid-infrared emission, it is a relatively weak source of far-infrared emission, as had been inferred for AGNs in previous research.” Says George Bendo, “The weak nuclear 160 um emission and the negligible polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon emission from the nucleus also implies that the nucleus is a site of only weak star formation activity and the nucleus contains relatively little cool interstellar gas needed to fuel such activity. We propose that this galaxy may be representative of a subset of low-ionization nuclear emission region galaxies that are in a quiescent AGN phase because of the lack of gas needed to fuel circumnuclear star formation and Seyfert-like AGN activity.”

Take the time to check out this beautiful galaxy yourself. You’ll find it eleven degrees west of Spica….



37 Responses

  1. cinsel sohbet says

    it’s wonderfull…

  2. Why is there no gravitational lensing in that photograph?

    According to dogma, the alleged “black hole” candidate at the center should cause the back ring to lens.

  3. Richard Kirk says

    This is very pretty, but it isn’t quite like approaching the Sombrero nebula. It’s like having your eyes 100,000 light-years apart. However, if your head was that big, then you would be thinking very slowly or the time lag across your brain would be very confusing, in which case, you ought to be able to see it spin.

  4. Feenixx says

    Wow, and double wow! This looks really cool – a nice treat at the end of the day.
    Thanks, as always,Tammy and Yukka, for sharing this beauty. You are visual superheroes!

    I work as a maker of special effects movies and pictures, and I’m jealous… because I haven’t got a clue how to do this kind of work.

  5. RickE says

    Brilliant. How does he do this?

  6. Olaf says

    “Brilliant. How does he do this?”

    Well Earh orbits the sun so take one image and wait one year take another one so we have a paralax. So I guess he did it so,

  7. Olaf says

    Oops correction wait one HALF year. 🙂

  8. ThereIsNoSuchThingAsMagic says

    Id have to say that this galaxy is one of my favourites….looking at the detail of the gas and dust, and seeing it from side on, its beautiful to behold.

  9. Yael Dragwyla says

    I think a certain somebody whose monicker begins with “O” is only 15 years old — if that — and trying to make us believe he’s a lot older and more knowledgeable about astronomy (and everything else) than he really is. We are not impressed.

  10. Qev says

    I’m pretty sure these aren’t parallax images, but are more-or-less simulated 3D using what’s known about the objects (and some math) to manipulate the original images.

  11. ioresult says

    Oh no! There’s a flaw in the picture! The left one in parallel vision (or right one in cross eyes) at the bottom of the galaxy’s disk, the image is double. We’re losing the 3d effect when we’Re looking there. A simple photoshop touch-up could correct it. Jukka, please correct the flaw! Please!

  12. Astrofiend says

    “# OilIsMastery Says:
    March 15th, 2009 at 11:56 am

    “Why is there no gravitational lensing in that photograph?

    According to dogma, the alleged “black hole” candidate at the center should cause the back ring to lens.”

    Oh God Oils – we went over this in a similar image not two months ago. The misconceptions you have concerning gravity and black holes are mindbogglingly numerous. Black hole ‘dogma’ would not suggest that lensing be present in this image. For GOD SAKE (actually, more for our sake) – go and teach yourself some maths, learn the basics of general relativity so you can at least stop spreading falsehoods. Please.

    Read ‘Exploring Black Holes: Introduction to General Relativity’ by Taylor and Wheeler for a start.

  13. Astrofiend,

    Your dogmatic response does not answer the question, ‘why is there no gravitational lens?’ in the photograph. If you want to satisfy me you’re going to have to use logic, science, and persuasion, not dodge the question and appeal to authority.

  14. I think a certain somebody whose initials are Y.G. is focusing all their effort on ad hominem attacks based upon prejudice and ignorance because they have no logical or scientific commentary to add. The last person on Earth I am trying to impress is someone of this sort.

  15. Popisfizzy says

    There’s no gravitational lensing because the galaxy is not enough of a point source, and nothing behing it is bright enough to cause any sort of lensing. God, I’ve seen, maybe, two of your comments, but it’s enough to demonstrate that you’re profoundly ignorant of anything related to gravitation. I’m sure you’re of the group that wonders why cars don’t float around mountains if “bigger means stronger gravity”.

  16. Dankwa says

    i have tried relaxing my eyes and crossing my eyes, but i fail to get this 3-D effect. Is there any tutorial to do this? Thanks!!!

  17. OillsMisery says

    Typically, one galaxy isn’t enough to create a lensing affect on its own (unless something really bright is behind it). You’ll find it is best when the galaxy is among a others in a cluster.
    Also, conditions have to be just right. There is a focal point of sorts behind the “lens” which is a sweet spot. In front of or behind it, there isn’t much of an affect.

    So there may in fact be some lensing, however it is magnifying a vast area of nothing.
    In affect, everything has to line up just right for gravitational lensing to occur to a point where most people will see its true affect. However, that doesn’t mean some light travelling by the galaxy isn’t being bent.

    There, now you’re slightly less of an Oills putz, but you’re still a putz.

  18. NAG says

    I too have been captivated by these amazing works by Jukka on clusters and nebulae. But facts have got in the way and I have to dampen some enthusiasm about these 3D Galaxy photos. Why are what can only be foreground stars being shown in the background?

    Galaxies are so far away that for many decades despite the best attempts of Astronomer’s the world over, individual stars could not be seen in them. It took the 60″ and 100″ telescopes combined with lengthy photography techniques to finally discern the brightest Cephid variables.

    I am hoping this is constructive criticism for what is an excellent way to convey stellar distances to the public, and make us amateur astronomers take fresh look through the eyepiece at these objects.

  19. None of you objecting to Oillsmastery have any idea at all about the proper way to treat with an objective question. So I am instead objecting to the idea that any of you here have any idea at all about the correct way to act on a public web site.

    As for the facts; as I understand it, not one scientist has all the answers as to what gravity is and how it works, so for someone to come on here and try and make out that anyone else is some sort of freak to ask a simple question shows the most juvenile manners imaginable.

    Grow up, all of you.

  20. Bob Pish says

    Why not also publish the anaglyph of the same pair for those of us with the red/blue glasses.

  21. Nag, thanks for looking carefully.

    If you selected the right image for your
    viewing method, you should see stars in a right
    order, at forreground of the image.

    There is “dots” in a background as well, but they
    are more distant Galxies, not Stars.

  22. ND says

    ThereIsNoSuchThingAsMagic,

    It is a beauty of a galaxy. I get a feeling of depth when I look at it even without any 3Dification. That ring of dust at the edge of the galaxy gives those visual cues of depth.

  23. Popisfizzy,

    “There’s no gravitational lensing because the galaxy is not enough of a point source”

    How much of a point source does a galaxy need to be in order to cause a gravitational lens?

    “and nothing behing it is bright enough to cause any sort of lensing.”

    How bright does an object need to be in order for a gravitational lens to occur? Are you saying that for an infinite distance beyond the Sombrero galaxy there are no birght objects in that direction? No quasars?

    “God, I’ve seen, maybe, two of your comments, but it’s enough to demonstrate that you’re profoundly ignorant of anything related to gravitation.”

    I agree. I am profoundly ignorant of anything related to gravitation because gravitation is a myth and I don’t believe in myths.

  24. Chris Coles,

    “None of you objecting to Oillsmastery have any idea at all about the proper way to treat with an objective question. So I am instead objecting to the idea that any of you here have any idea at all about the correct way to act on a public web site.

    As for the facts; as I understand it, not one scientist has all the answers as to what gravity is and how it works, so for someone to come on here and try and make out that anyone else is some sort of freak to ask a simple question shows the most juvenile manners imaginable.

    Grow up, all of you.”

    I appreciate your commentary. Thank you.

  25. Kevin says

    I was able to resolve the picture, but it didn’t seem very 3D. Maybe it is the size of the image being resolved. and it’s apparent distance.

    As far as these gravity questions…what the heck. Gravity is a myth??? If so, it certainly explains quite a bit about the cosmos. Do we have a counter argument or some eveidence that gravity is incorrect? Or are we simply basing it’s incorrectness on your wish that it be incorrect. Looks like this is an ongoing discussion, so perhaps “OillsMastery”‘s counter arguments and counter examples of gravity have been discussed in the past.

    My 2 cents on the matter is that there are many reason why this galaxy would not be exhibitting lensin.

    1) Nothing directly lined up in the line of sight toactually be lensed.

    2) The galaxy may be lensing a distant object, but we are not in the correct postion to see the effects.

    3) It could be that the lens that is being created is lensing a distant object within the visual field of the galaxy we are observing.

    4) It certainly could be true that gravity doesn’t exist as we know it either, but it would take a whole lot of evidence to convince anyone of that.

  26. Kevin,

    Read this and tell me what you think: http://www.varchive.org/ce/cosmos.htm

  27. Kevin says

    Oh geez. Isn’t this the same garbage that Neil Adams purports. Of course it always possible that a comic book illustrator could know more about the comsos than all of trained professionals who are trying to discover how they “actually” work, but it is HIGHLY unlikely.

    Velikovsky was a psychiatrist, NOT A SCEINTIST, so his claim to the above is just as tenuous. The idea that somehting is incorrect, because I can not understand how it could be possible is a clear logical fallacy and hardly a starting point for undoing all of modern physics.

  28. Kevin,

    Nice ad hominem attacks. How long did you spend formulating them?

    Congratulations on ignoring the link and ignoring the arguments therein.

  29. M83 says

    Great addition to my 3d collection! Does anyone know where I can find more of these stereoscopic images?

  30. Popisfizzy says

    He didn’t make an ad hominem attack, as he didn’t attack the individual making the claim, but the idea. Saying someone is unqualified when they make claims outside their profession is hardly unjustified. If a physicist makes claims about known connections between Indian and European languages being complete bullshit, would you believe the linguist defending it or the physicist attacking it?

    It’s fairly clear that Velikovsky didn’t know what he was talking about, just as it’s fairly clear that you don’t know what you’re talking about. Just by all the pseudo-scientific silliness on your blog, you’re really not to be taken seriously.

  31. Popisfizzy says

    And, now looking over your silly blog a bit more, I see you like to play the hypocrite. You appeal to authority quite a lot, especially when their statements stem from ignorance of facts and theories because they didn’t exist at the time. For example, you quote Michael Faraday on saying that gravity is electromagnetic, but he died several years before Einstein was even born. You also make attacks on Isaac Newton for being a devout Christian, even though such a thing was nigh-ubiquitious in the 17th century. And, in fact, other important figures, such as Rene Descartes, Leonhard Euler, Georg Cantor were deeply religious, but it doesn’t at all influence what they did. On top of all this, alchemy was still viewed as a legitimate science in his time, indistinguishable from chemistry.

    I also don’t doubt that you’re quote mining, as several of the quotes on your page seem like they are selected due to how they could easily be misinterpreted (Yes, the planets obviously didn’t start out this big. They formed over billions of years of collecting cosmic dust until they were they were about five billion years ago. That doesn’t mean they’ve been continually growing, and outside of pseudo-science there’s no means for it to grow).

    All-in-all, you’re quite the hypocrite, on top of being a loon.

  32. kevin says

    Ad Hominum attacks? Maybe in the broad perspective, but it is absolutely true that pretty muck every point made in the article you attached has been PROVEN by people much more knowledagble than I am about the subjects to be absolute bunk.

    The crux of Velikovsky’s entire argument in the paper rests on the fact that he BELIEVES, keep in mind that he has absolutely no evidence to back this up, he simply believes that science has it all wrong and that magnetism acts at a distance as the suare root of the distance and not the cube root of the distance. Therefore he proposes that gravity and magnetism have a apparent equal strength at equal distances.

    That unto itself is total garbage and is demostrably false. If magnetism in fact in a order of magnitude weaked than the gravitational force at large distances, his arguments turn out to be total rubbish. And in fact they are just that, total rubbish.

    The fact that you still consider this to be a viable sceintific theory puts a whole lot of accountability on your shoulders to actually prove that this is true. Well a first good step to proving that article you posted is even worth the paper it was written on would be to simply prove the conjecture that the magnetic force does indeed act at a distance like the square root of the distance and not the cube root of the distance. If you can do that then at least the paper would have some small shread of sceintific and intellectual integrity.

    Other wise it is just some much whacko bunk. Velikovsky’s arguments were never couched in sceince to begin with. All his ideas about how the Universe functions was a study in comapartive Mythology. He is making up things to try and tie out with the Bible and all other aspects of ancient mythology. Sceintists are looking at the Universe and actually measuring things and proposing how they work based on what we actually see. While what we see can be somewhat subjective at times, it is a many orders of magnitude more reliable than theories based on the traditions of ancient Mythologies.

    Go ahead and post all you want on these blogs, until you come up with a single shread of evidence to backup the basis of Velikovsky’s aguments then you will simply be ignored. And please come up with something more original than “Sceince can not explain this, so it must mean sceince is all worng” or “it must mean that I am right”. It doesn’t work any better for you than it has for the Creationists or other non sceintific communities.

  33. kevin says

    Obviously i meant inverse square and inverse cube above and not the square root and cube root above.

  34. Popisfizzy,

    “It’s fairly clear that Velikovsky didn’t know what he was talking about”

    So you think Venus is freezing cold?

  35. Kevin,

    “He is making up things to try and tie out with the Bible and all other aspects of ancient mythology.”

    So you don’t believe in electricity and magnetism? Do you think Venus is a freezing cold ice world?

    “All his ideas about how the Universe functions was a study in comapartive Mythology”

    Since when do you have a problem with mythology?

    “…lest the systems of the fixed stars should, by their gravity, fall on each other, he [God] hath placed those systems at immense distances from one another.” — Isaac Newton, mathematician, 1687

  36. popisfizzy says

    Oh my, now you’re using coincidences for arguments to some sort of vast, profound knowledge? I assume next you’ll be wanting us all to believe in astrology.

  37. kevin says

    OillsMastery,

    Like I said, simply show any evidence for any of the claims that Velikovsky made. I suggested it would be nice to show that the inverse square law actually applies to Magnetism at a distance. Velikovsky makes no attempt in the paper you attached to offer any evidence that this claim is correct, he simply states that he is correct and Newton, and all of the sceintific community, is wrong on this issue. Well, then is should be a simple thing for you or any of his other supporters to provide some evidence for this claim. If you cannot, then his basic arguments are just fall apart and you are left with nothing to hang your hat on. Then it is just your opinion against the bulk of sceintific knowledge. In that case you can be dismissed out of hand.

    As for Mythology, I have no problem with it at all. It is fascinating to see the ancient mind at work trying to make order out of the Universe. To say that because because Athena was borne of Zeus’s head implies that Venus sprouted from Jupiter however, is quite a fantastic claim that we are still waiting for evidence from the Velikovsky fans. And i am sure we will be waiting for quite a long time since you seem to have no inclination towards actually defending anything Velikovsky has proposed with anything resembling data or other evidence. You simply throw about nonsensical phrases and asnwer questions with questions. The same tactics as any follower of any pseudo-scientifical group.

    No amount of evidence against your claims will ever convince you that you are wrong. Even though you are not able to put forth any evidence in defense of this position. One must conclude that you are either delusional or simply a total chralatan who is simply trying to get a rise out of some people by pretending to defend someone with unproven fringe ideas.

    Either way, this discussion has become pretty meaningless.

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