A dazzling photo captured by the Hubble Space Telescope showcases the glowing heart of a relatively close spiral galaxy — fairly similar to our Milky Way.
Unveiled on October 22 by the Hubble Space Telescope website, the snapshot offers a close portrait of a galaxy called NGC 5033 — a spiral galaxy nestled some 40 million light-years away from Earth, in the Canes Venatici constellation — also known as the Hunting Dogs.
The NGC 5033 galaxy is wondrous to behold, and shares some of the eye-catching features seen in the Milky Way. For instance, both galaxies are roughly the same size and measure about 100,000 light-years across. At the same time, they both sport beautifully colored spiral arms — chock-full of glimmering newborn stars.
What makes the NGC 5033 galaxy different is its lack of a central bar. The Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy, meaning that its center hosts a long bar of stars. This long bar of stars spins around inside the galactic disk, and seems to feed the supermassive black hole at the middle, according to the New Scientist.
Meanwhile, NGC 5033 is powered by “a bright and energetic core” known as an active galactic nucleus. This highly-active nucleus — the galaxy’s “bright heart” — also draws its fuel from a supermassive black hole and gives NGC 5033 a quasar-like quality, making it shine across the entire electromagnetic spectrum.
As the Inquisitr previously reported, quasars are among the most luminous and active objects in the entire universe. These magnificent objects are made up of an immense disk of diffuse material that gravitates around a supermassive black hole. The disk provides a constant supply of gas to the central black hole — which, in turn, emits light and radiation as it gobbles up any in-falling material.
The same phenomenon is believed to occur within NGC 5033 as well. Thanks to its active galactic nucleus, this unbarred spiral galaxy is classified as a Seyfert galaxy — a group of galaxies that are thought to function in a similar way to quasars.
“While its relative proximity to Earth makes it an ideal target for professional astronomer [sic] to study its active nucleus in more detail, its big apparent size on the night sky and its brightness also makes it a beautiful target for amateur astronomers,” notes the Hubble Space Telescope website.
The newly released Hubble photo perfectly illustrates why this is the case. The snapshot reveals the bright core of the galaxy, surrounded by an accretion disk that glows in stunning hues of blue and red.
“Like in the Milky Way, NGC 5033’s spiral arms are dotted with blue regions, indicating ongoing star formation. The blue patches house hot, young stars in the process of forming, while the older, cooler stars populating the galaxy’s center cause it to appear redder in color,” the Hubble team explains in the photo release.
The myriad of stars that make up the galaxy are also fueling the supermassive black hole that lies at the heart of NGC 5033 — keeping the core alive and emitting vast amounts of energy.
“This released energy shows that the central black hole is currently devouring stars, dust and gas getting to close to it. As this matter falls onto the supermassive black hole, it radiates in many different wavelengths,” details the photo release.