Hubble Captures Supermassive Black Hole Hidden Behind Dust


NASA’s Hubble telescope, which helped scientists discover some of the amazing aspects of space, has captured a stunning view of an active black hole covered behind tendrils of dark dust. The black hole lies in the spiral galaxy NGC 7172, located about 110 million light-years away from Earth in the ancient, but small constellation Piscis Austrinus. The dark dust passes through the centre of the galaxy, obscuring its luminous heart. This makes NGC 7172 appear to be nothing more than a normal spiral galaxy when viewed from the side, the agency said.

When dust and gas fall into the galaxy’s central supermassive black hole, it emits bright rays of light.  Also, NASA scientists have found that NGC 7172 is a Seyfert galaxy — marked by an intensely luminous active galactic nucleus. In fact, a galaxy with an active galactic nucleus is able to produce more radiation than the entire rest of the galaxy. Seyfert galaxies are named after American astronomer Carl K. Seyfert, who first called attention to this class of galaxies in 1944.

The Hubble Space Telescope has captured this image using two instruments ­— its Advanced Camera for Surveys and Wide Field Camera 3. The data was then combined to get this image, according to NASA.

A joint project of NASA and the European Space Agency, Hubble has been observing space for more than three decades. Having an unobstructed view of the universe, the telescope has made more than 1.3 million observations so far.

But it is ageing. And NASA has already launched its successor — James Webb Space Telescope. The $10-billion (roughly Rs. 75,785 crore) James Webb is the most powerful observatory ever sent to space. It is currently undergoing the deployment process and is likely to start science observations by summer this year. The James Webb is also a joint project between the American and European space agencies. Its aim is to shed new light on the origin of the universe and how it evolved.

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