Play Of Light And Shadow From the Core of the Galaxy (Cosmology)

Ic 5063 is located 156 million light years from us. It is an active galaxy (Agn) pervaded by a fascinating play of light and shadow generated by the supermassive and extremely ravenous black hole in the center. Light rays and shadow beams extend across the galaxy for about 36,000 light years

Taken by the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 and Advanced Camera for Surveys on March 7 and November 25, 2019, this image reveals the appearance of the heart of the active galaxy Ic 5063 , 156 million light-years away. The galaxy is pervaded by a mixture of light rays and dark shadows emanating from the “flaming” core, home to a supermassive black hole.

Ic 5063 belongs to the class of active galactic nuclei : galaxies in which the central black hole is intensely growing and which therefore, seen through the telescope, show an enormously brighter central area than what happens in “normal” galaxies. 

Analyzing this photograph, astronomers suggest that a ring of dusty material surrounding the black hole may be casting its shadow into space around the galaxy. What happens? Light and shadow interact when the light emitted by the immense and ravenous black hole hits the ring of dust, which is buried within the core. The light “escapes” through the cracks in the ring, creating the bright rays visible in the image (like the setting Sun whose rays peek out of the clouds). However, denser areas in the disk block out much of the light, casting long dark shadows across the galaxy.

This play of light and shadow extends across the galaxy for about 36,000 light years.

Featured image: The galaxy Ic 5063. Credits: Nasa, Esa, STScI and WP Maksym (CfA)

Provided by INAF

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