See the glowing "heart of the galaxy" in unprecedented resolution

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics have published an image of the inner dust ring.

and the bright "heart of the galaxy" NGC 1097. The new image is the result of testing the ERIS infrared instrument, which enhances the capabilities of the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile.

In the picture you can clearly see the inner ring,surrounding the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy. The bright "spots" on the ring are areas where the creation of new stars has already been completed, the brown clouds are traces of dust and gas coming from the galaxy and fueling star formation in the ring.

Inner ring of dust at the center of NGC 1097. Image: MPE/ESO/ERIS

As you can see in the picture, the molecular gas entersfrom the outer regions of the galaxy, stimulates the formation of new stars in the ring, and then spirals towards the central black hole. The researchers note that the image provides unprecedented resolution for the star-forming regions of the galaxy NGC 1097. The image shows a part of the sky less than 0.03% the size of a full moon.

The galaxy NGC 1097 is located 45 million lightyears from Earth in the constellation Furnace. It is a spiral galaxy with a supermassive black hole at its center. Its gravity has formed a region of active star formation in the form of a ring at a short distance.

Astrophysicists note that observations have confirmedhigh accuracy of new devices. Expanding the capabilities of the VLT will help, for example, study the dynamics of distant galaxies in incredible detail or measure the speed of stars orbiting the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. These are characteristics that are critical to testing general relativity and understanding the meaning of black hole physics.

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Cover: galaxy NGC 1097. Image: NASA