Credit: NASA/SAO/CXC/C.Jones et al.
An Elliptical Galaxy's "Inner Spiral"
Galaxies come in two types: spiral galaxies, shaped like giant, flattened
whirlpools, and ellipticals, which are shaped like giant (though rather
nondescript) ellipsoids. The connection between these two kinds of shapes
is not well established. However, a recent
observation of the elliptical galaxy NGC 4636 by the Chandra X-ray Observatory provides
important new information. The Chandra image (shown above) provided a
surprise to astronomers, since it shows 2 previously unseen spiral arms of
extremely hot gas (at a temperature of about 10 million degrees) emanating
from the center of this elliptical galaxy. The arms themselves are embedded
in a spherical cloud of hot gas, though this hot cloud is cooler than the
spiral arms. Astronomers believe that these arms are the leading edge of a
galaxy-sized shock wave (with an energy equivalent to that of a few
thousand supernovae), possibly related to a "feeding cycle" of a massive
black hole at the galaxy's center.
Last Week *
HEA Dictionary * Archive
* Search HEAPOW
Each week the HEASARC
brings you new, exciting and beautiful images from X-ray and Gamma ray
astronomy. Check back each week and be sure to check out the HEAPOW archive!
Page Author: Dr. Michael F.
Last modified January 6, 2002