Galactic Serial Killer's Mugshot Taken

| 3 Apr 2014 20:31

The European Southern Observatory has captured a new image of a galaxy that has engulfed several other galaxies in its past.

Galaxy NGC 1316, also known as Fornax A, may have been described as a quiet type by its neighbors, but it holds a dark secret: it's a galactic serial killer. A new image released by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) captures Fornax A and its small, spiral galaxy neighbor NCG 1317 in great detail in an effort to better understand Fornax A's internal structure.

It is this internal structure that gave away Fornax A's past crimes. Unusual dust lanes and oddly small globular clusters of stars - generally found orbiting a galactic core - suggest that Fornax A swallowed up a dust-rich spiral galaxy about three billion years ago.

But that wasn't Fornax A's first victim, and it likely won't be its last. Around the galaxy, we can see wisps and shells of stars that have been torn from their original locations, and neighbor NGC 1317 isn't large enough to cause the distortions observed in Fornax A's structure - all evidence pointing to a violent past. The supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy, with a weight equal to 130-150 million Suns, may have been fueled by the engulfing of several smaller galaxies.

Source: ESO

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