An iris of stars

Around 50 million light years away, lies a rather lovely spiral galaxy known as NGC 1097. Seen in infrared light by Spitzer in this image, it reminds me a little of an egyptian Eye of Horus.

That pupil however, is a black hole weighing in at 100 million solar masses. Astonishingly though, that bright white iris around it is a flurry of star forming activity. It’s thought to be produced by material falling inwards towards the central black hole and is “forming stars at a very high rate,” according to NASA’s Kartik Sheth.

Interestingly, this is yet more evidence of black holes being helpful towards star formation, even if one or two occasionally get torn apart, devoured or kicked out of the nest

Source — Spitzer Space Telescope

About Invader Xan

Molecular astrophysicist, usually found writing frenziedly, staring at the sky, or drinking mojitos.
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4 Responses to An iris of stars

  1. invaderxan says:

    Yeah, it’s strange and a little counter-intuitive, huh?
    The more I read about it, the more it seems that black holes seem to actively cause star formation. It seems almost like a massive analog of planets forming around stars, really…

  2. invaderxan says:

    No kidding. :)
    It’s nice to work in a field which routinely churns out random prettiness!

  3. helen99 says:

    Interesting that stars are actually able to form in that area! I had thought that any gasses in the vicinity of a black hole would be too rapidly absorbed by its gravity for any appreciable accretion to take place. I guess everything must be happening at a greatly accelerated rate.

  4. So pretty! Images like this are what got me interested in space in the first place. I love astrophotography.

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