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The Sombrero galaxy, NGC 4594, M104

Date created: 1999-04-15

Tags: N/A

The Sombrero galaxy is named for its fanciful resemblence to a broad-brimmed Mexican hat. The diffuse central bulge that dominates the picture is the light of billions of stars in orbit around an unseen but extremely massive black hole at the heart of the galaxy. The bulge is crossed by a narrow lane of dust that absorbs light from an almost edge-on spiral disk, while the scattering of individual stars seen here belong to our own Milky Way.

The photograph above is about 9 arcmin across, but on a much deeper image the galaxy's halo extends to at least half a degree, and within it are faint loops and plumes of stars that reveal the remnants of ancient mergers with other galaxies. Not unrelated, but on a much smaller scale, the galaxy's nucleus is a source of radio and X-ray synchrotron emission. The Sombrero galaxy is about 100 million light years away in the direction of Virgo.

Image derived three AAT plates taken in red, green and blue light.

Credit: David Malin

© Australian Astronomical Observatory