Here’s this week’s image for the Where In The Universe Challenge, to test your visual knowledge of the cosmos. You know what to do: take a look at this image and see if you can determine where in the universe this image is from; give yourself extra points if you can name the spacecraft or instrument responsible for the image. We’ll provide the image today, but won’t reveal the answer until later. This gives you a chance to mull over the image and provide your answer/guess in the comment section. Please, no links or extensive explanations of what you think this is — give everyone the chance to guess.
And happy Thanksgiving to everyone who will be celebrating on Thursday.
UPDATE: Answer now posted below.
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No photoshopping here, there really is a dark “X”-shape silhoutted against the nucleus of this galaxy, M51. Taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, the “X” is due to absorption by dust and this X really does mark the spot. It marks the exact position of a black hole which may have a mass equivalent to one-million stars like the sun.
This may be the first direct view of an immense ring of dust which fuels a massive black hole at the heart of M51, located 20 million light-years away. The darkest bar may be an edge-on dust ring which is 100 light-years in diameter. Surprisingly, astronomers found that the ring is standing almost perpendicularly to the relatively flat spiral galaxy, like a top spinning on its side with respect to the floor. Even more surprising is the discovery of a secondary ring or dust lane which is contrary to all expectations.