Pic of the Week: Spanish Dancer Galaxy

Image (Credit): Spanish Dancer Galaxy (Dark Energy Survey/DOE/FNAL/DECam/CTIO/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA)

This week’s image, from the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, is nicknamed the Spanish Dancer Galaxy. Here is a little more on from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory (NOIRLab):

Located in the constellation Dorado and lying around 70 million light-years away, NGC 1566 is a grand-design spiral galaxy with two arms that appear to wind around the galactic core, just like the arms of a dancer as they spin around and around in a furious twirl. This image was taken from Chile at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), a Program of NSF’s NOIRLab, using the Dark Energy Camera. The galaxy’s face-on view to us, its location, and its composition make it a trove of observational opportunities for astronomers across many fields of astronomy.

NGC 1566 is home to stars at all stages of stellar evolution. In this image, the bright blue color that outlines the arms of the galaxy arises from young, brightly burning stars. Darker spots within these arms are dust lanes. The arms are rich in gas, and form large-scale areas that provide the perfect environment for new stars to form. Closer to the center of the galaxy are cooler, older stars and dust, all evident by the redder color in the image. This galaxy has even been host to an observed stellar end-of-life event, when a supernova, named SN2010el, burst onto the scene in 2010.

The center of NGC 1566 is dominated by a supermassive black hole. The distinct and highly luminous nucleus of the galaxy is known as an active galactic nucleus. The light from the nucleus changes on timescales of only hundreds of days, making its exact classification difficult for astronomers.