Amateur Astronomer's Picture Reveals Stunning Details About Our Galactic neighbour

The image below is of a nearby galaxy known as Messier 106, one of the brightest and nearest spiral galaxies to our own Milky Way. It’s about 20 million light-years away.

This new image was created by Hubble telescope observations that were analysed and placed into a mosaic by amateur astronomer Robert Gendler. He combined this mosaic with his own observations, and the observations of another astrophotographer Jay GaBany to make the final image.

The image revealed some spectacular things about the galaxy, the press release says:

  1. At its heart, as in most spiral galaxies, is a supermassive black hole, but this one is particularly active. Unlike the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way, which pulls in wisps of gas only occasionally, Messier 106’s black hole is actively gobbling up material.
  2. As the gas spirals towards the black hole, it heats up and emits powerful radiation.
  3. Instead of two spiral arms, it appears to have four. The extra arms appear to be an indirect result of jets of material produced by the violent churning of matter around the black hole.
Spiral galaxy M 106This image combines Hubble observations of M 106 with additional information captured by amateur astronomers Robert Gendler and Jay GaBany. Gendler combined Hubble data with his own observations to produce this stunning colour image. M 106 is a relatively nearby spiral galaxy, a little over 20 million light-years away.

Photo: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), and R. Gendler (for the Hubble Heritage Team). Acknowledgment: J. GaBany, A van der Hoeven

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