The Hubble Telescope imaged the galaxy NGC 3156. At its core is a black hole

Lenticular galaxy NGC 3156 was captured by the Hubble Space Telescope. It is located 73 million light-years from Earth and has been relatively well explored. Scientists have discovered that at its center there is an extremely voracious black hole.

Despite more than three decades of operation, the Hubble Space Telescope is still conducting scientific observations and providing interesting images of astronomical objects. In the latter category belongs an image provided by the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA, which shows a seemingly peaceful space scene.

Lenticular galaxy

The galaxy NGC 3156 in the image is located 73 million light-years from Earth. It can be seen in the sky in the minor constellation Sextant. The galaxy belongs to a type that astronomers call lenticular galaxies, which refers to the shape of the object.

Lenticular galaxies lie between elliptical galaxies and spiral galaxies, and have characteristics of both types. They are associated with spiral galaxies by a central galactic bulge and a large surrounding disk, which often shows spiral-like dark dust lanes but lacks large spiral arms. In contrast, elliptical galaxies have in common that they contain mainly old stars and little ongoing star formation.

NGC 3156 has been studied by astronomers in several ways. Both globular clusters (spherical collections of stars bound together by gravity) and stars destroyed by the black hole at the center of the galaxy were analysed. Using Hubble data, stars near the galactic center were compared with other galaxies containing black holes of similar size. NGC 3156 was found to have a higher than average proportion of stars consumed by its central supermassive black hole.

Galaxy NGC 3156 seen through the lens of the Hubble Space TelescopeESA/Hubble and NASA, R. Sharples, S. Kaviraj, W. Kale

Main image source: ESA/Hubble and NASA, R. Sharples, S. Kaviraj, W. Kale

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