Most detailed image of galaxy captured

May 16, 2012 at 3:27 PM
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MUNICH, Germany, May 16 (UPI) -- European astronomers say they've captured the deepest, most detailed images ever of a massive elliptical galaxy with a supermassive black hole at its heart.

Centaurus A lies about 12 million light-years from Earth in the southern hemisphere constellation of Centaurus (The Centaur) and has the distinction of being the most prominent radio galaxy in the sky.

Astronomers with the European Southern Observatory say they believe the galaxy's bright nucleus, strong radio emissions and jet features are evidence of a central black hole with a mass of about 100 million times that of our sun.

The new images of Centaurus A were taken with the Wide Field Imager attached to the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile, the ESO reported Wednesday from its headquarters in Munich, German.

With a total exposure time of more than 50 hours this is probably the deepest view of this galaxy ever created, astronomers said.

Centaurus A has been extensively studied at wavelengths ranging from radio all the way to gamma-rays, they said.

First documented by British astronomer James Dunlop in 1826, the galaxy is often called Centaurus A because it was the first major source of radio waves discovered in the constellation of Centaurus in the 1950s.

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