Hubble Sees NGC 3081

Hubble's view of NGC 3081.  Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA; acknowledgement: R. Buta (University of Alabama) Text credit: European Space Agency
Hubble’s view of NGC 3081. Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA; acknowledgement: R. Buta (University of Alabama)  Text credit: European Space Agency

Another stunning image from the Hubble!

NGC 3081 is about 34.3 Mpc away (that’s about 112 Million light-years!) in the constellation of Hydra. There are two People credited with the discovery of this galaxy: by William Herschel on 21 Dec 1786 and later listed as NGC 3081, and by Lewis Swift on 11 Apr 1898 and later listed as IC 2529. The internet was slower back then. Just kidding, it’s not at all far fetched to have independent discoveries.

NGC and IC are both catalogs. IC is for the Index Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars which is an update to the New General Catalogue. NGC was put together in the 1880’s by John Dreyer using data from William and John Herschel (father and son). The Index Catalogue or IC was published in two sections by Dreyer in 1895 and 1908.

I think there are at around 7840 entries in the NGC.

ESA’s description (via NASA):

Taking center stage in this new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image is a galaxy known as NGC 3081, set against an assortment of glittering galaxies in the distance. Located in the constellation of Hydra (The Sea Serpent), NGC 3081 is located over 86 million light-years from us. It is known as a type II Seyfert galaxy, characterized by its dazzling nucleus.

NGC 3081 is seen here nearly face-on. Compared to other spiral galaxies, it looks a little different. The galaxy’s barred spiral center is surrounded by a bright loop known as a resonance ring. This ring is full of bright clusters and bursts of new star formation, and frames the supermassive black hole thought to be lurking within NGC 3081 — which glows brightly as it hungrily gobbles up in-falling material.

These rings form in particular locations known as resonances, where gravitational effects throughout a galaxy cause gas to pile up and accumulate in certain positions. These can be caused by the presence of a “bar” within the galaxy, as with NGC 3081, or by interactions with other nearby objects. It is not unusual for rings like this to be seen in barred galaxies, as the bars are very effective at gathering gas into these resonance regions, causing pile-ups which lead to active and very well-organized star formation.

Hubble snapped this magnificent face-on image of the galaxy using the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2. This image is made up of a combination of ultraviolet, optical, and infrared observations, allowing distinctive features of the galaxy to be observed across a wide range of wavelengths.

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