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A bright Seyfert galaxy, NGC 1566

Date created: 1984-05-18

Tags: galaxy, spiral

NGC 1566 is the brightest member of a nearby galaxy group in Dorado and is at a distance of about 40 million light years. It has beautifully symmetrical, tightly-wound spiral arms, which on deep images appear to almost encircle the galaxy. This striking object is also of interest because it has a very luminous nucleus which has many of the characteristics of a quasar, though it is much less energetic. Galaxies of this type are known as Seyfert galaxies, after Carl Seyfert who first recognised their peculiar nature in 1943.

The active region at the centre of NGC 1566 has recently been found to vary on a timescale of less than a month, which indicates that it is extremely compact. Spectra show that hot gas near the tiny nucleus is moving at an abnormally high velocity, usually an indication that it may be in orbit around a massive black hole at the heart of NGC 1566.

Photograph made from plates taken in February 1984.
Top left is NE. Image width is about 11 arc min.

Credit: David Malin

© Australian Astronomical Observatory