Image Credit: ESA/NASA, (Acknowledgement: Andre van der Hoeven)

Meet NGC 5806: a memorable galaxy that lurks around 80 million light-years from Earth in the Virgo constellation. In this image, which was captured by the Hubble Space Telescope’s ‘Advanced Camera for Surveys,’ we see the region with three different datasets, mostly showing details from the visible and infrared portions of the electromagnetic spectrum. 

Together, they show NGC 5806’s bulge; its sweeping gas and dust filled spiral arms; and its bright central nucleus, which seems to harbor a supermassive black hole that’s so active, it can’t consume all of the material in its path, so it has accumulated into a super-heated accretion disk;  According to NASA, unlike our galaxy, “The galaxy’s bulge (the densest part in the center of the spiral arms) is a so-called disk-type bulge, in which the spiral structure extends right to the center of the galaxy, instead of there being a large elliptical bulge of stars present.”

Also pictured here is SN 2004dg, a supernova remnant first discovered in 2004 (it’s the faint, yellow-tinged blob found near the bottom of the galaxy). In fact, the exposures used to put together this stunning image were taken because of the supernova, and astronomers’ desire to pinpoint its specific location. Ergo this star died so that we could see this view.

Besides making a pretty picture, these exposures of NGC 5806 are important in another way. Rarely do astronomers have the opportunity to compare and contrast images taken before and after a supernova presents itself (by some estimates, only three stars go supernova in a galaxy each century), and since plenty of images were taken beforehand, it’s a perfect case study.  

NASA also notes that this is just one version of NGC 5806 entered into Hubble’s Hidden Treasures Image Processing Competition, submitted by Andre van der Hoeven.

See a larger image here.


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