Centaurus A (NGC5128) is an unusual-looking galactic nebula located approximately 12-13 million lightyears from earth in the Centauri constellation. In 1826, James Dunlop discovered this bizarre and fascinating star that’s been a mystery ever since.
Facts About Centaurus A Galaxy
- The black hole of Centaurus A is more massive than the Milky Way.
- The unusual shapes you see in the photo are caused by powerful jets of energy shooting from a black hole.
- The galaxy’s dust lane is an area of interstellar dust in a sideways S shape.
- All of the new stars that are made by Centaurus A are very bright.
- Centaurus A is the fifth brightest galaxy that you can see in our night sky.
- Scientists have found that the radio and X-ray jets are thought to be created by an explosive event happening on the edge before the black hole’s event horizon.
- Centaurus A is a star-making machine! Not only does it produce new stars, but also sheds off old ones.
- It takes over 10 million years for light to reach us from the distant galaxy, so these stars exploded more than 10 million years ago.
- Centaurus A is a colossal, part of the Virgo Supercluster that contains at least one hundred galaxy groups and clusters.
Centaurus A Profile
|Distance:||10-16 million light years (3 -5 megaparsecs)|
|Diameter:||60 000 light-years|
|Other designations:||NGC 5128, PGC 46957, LEDA 46957, ESO 270-9, Arp 153, Caldwell 77, 4U 1322–42|
|Brightness:||Fifth brightest galaxy seen from Earth|
Centaurus A Galaxy Discovery
The Centaurus A galaxy was discovered in 1826 by Scottish astronomer James Dunlop who described it as a nebula since the existence of distant galaxies was still an open question. In 1847, English astronomer John Herschel first described the nebula’s strange structure such as its dust lane and jet.
The first and brightest radio emission source outside of the Milky Way was discovered in 1949. Visible from Earth at night, it became known as Galaxy Centaurus because that’s where you’ll find its constellation.
The Centaurus A is one of the most researched galaxies in recent history. Since 1940, various imaging techniques have been used to record light emissions from this galaxy with delicate and precise instruments at different wavelengths.
The Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space telescope, and various observatories on Earth were able to capture photographs of light from Centaurus A galaxy at a broad spectrum ranging from infrared to ultraviolet.
The range in wavelengths provided new insight into how it emits radio lobes around its relativistic jets but we are still unsure as to whether they’re powered by spinning black holes or not.
Centaurus A Galaxy Formation
Scientists are still debating what type of galaxy the Centaurus A is. Based on visible light research, it appears to have a structure similar to elliptical galaxies which generally do not possess gas and dust bands known as “dust lanes” or “horizontal stripes.”
Dust bands are a typical feature in nearly every galaxy. They can be seen as the cloud-like smudge that hides its bulge when we look at it from Earth, and they’re found even in Centaurus A.
There is a current theory that the strange structure and emissions from galaxies are caused by two different types of galaxy merging.
This idea was first proposed in 1954, but it wasn’t until recently that simulation models showed how this may have occurred. A more massive elliptical galaxy merged with a smaller spiral one somewhere between 200 and 700 million years ago according to simulations.
How to find Centaurus A in the night sky
Although the Centaurus A is only visible to an unaided eye in exceptional circumstances, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a look. It can be seen from the southern hemisphere and low northern latitudes with just your eyes alone!
Centaurus A is a galaxy that resides in the constellation Centaurus and it’s located 4 degrees north of Omega Centauri, which is near to the center.
For the casual stargazer, it can be hard to see what’s in this far-away galaxy. Fortunately for all of us who are curious and want to know more about space, amateur astronomers have found ways with using binoculars or smaller telescopes that make viewing these details easier than ever before!