Hubble catptures a Cosmic Megamaser located over 370 million light-years from Earth
Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt (geckzilla)

NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope (HST) which is also the largest telescope in space have beamed back millions of stunning image back on Earth. Similarly, the largest man-made eyes present in space has captured a galaxy which has a very futuristic and exciting classification as it hosts a megamaser.

Some components of the galaxy like gas clouds, are in perfectly stimulated condition to emit intense energy in form of microwave during megamasers. Basically, a megamaser is nearly 100 million times brighter than the masers present in galaxies like Milky Way. The entire galaxy essentially acts as an astronomical laser that beams out microwave emission rather than visible light (hence, ‘m’ replacing the ‘l’).

This megamaser galaxy is named IRAS 16399-0937 and is located over 370 million light-years from Earth. This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image belies the galaxy’s energetic nature, instead of painting it as a beautiful and serene cosmic rosebud. The image comprises observations captured across various wavelengths by two of Hubble’s instruments: the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), and the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS).

NICMOS’s superb sensitivity, resolution, and field of view gave astronomers the unique opportunity to observe the structure of IRAS 16399-0937 in detail. They found it hosts a double nucleus — the galaxy’s core is thought to be formed of two separate cores in the process of merging. The two components named IRAS 16399N and IRAS 16399S for the northern and southern parts respectively sit over 11,000 light-years apart. However, they are both buried deep within the same swirl of cosmic gas and dust and are interacting, giving the galaxy its peculiar structure.

The nuclei are very different. IRAS 16399S appears to be a starburst region, where new stars are forming at an incredible rate. IRAS 16399N, however, is something known as a LINER nucleus (Low-Ionization Nuclear Emission Region), which is a region whose emission mostly stems from weakly-ionized or neutral atoms of particular gases. The northern nucleus also hosts a black hole with some 100 million times the mass of the sun!

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy in Washington, D.C.

The telescope was launched in 1990 and since then it is the largest telescope in space. HST has helped scientists in exploring the deepest corners of the universe and has beamed back millions of stunning shots in its entire career. However, HST will be replaced by the James Webb Telescope in 2018 as it has thrice larger lens when compared to HST.

Full-size Image:

Hubble catptures a Cosmic Megamaser located over 370 million light-years from Earth
Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt (geckzilla)