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See the beautiful galaxy Centaurus A in all its cosmic glory

A stunning image of the distant galaxy Centaurus A has been captured by the Dark Energy Camera, an instrument mounted on the Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.

Centaurus A is located over 12 million light-years from Earth in the constellation of Centaurus (The Centaur) and is a huge, active galaxy. One of its strangest features is the jets of material being flung out by the supermassive black hole at its center which flow with such force that the jets reach beyond the limits of the galaxy itself, and which will be the target of future research by the James Webb Space Telescope.

A spectacular portrait of the galaxy Centaurus A captured by astronomers using the Dark Energy Camera.
A spectacular portrait of the galaxy Centaurus A has been captured by astronomers using the Dark Energy Camera mounted on the Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. This galaxy’s peculiar appearance — cloaked in dark tendrils of dust — stems from a past interaction with another galaxy, and its size and proximity to Earth make it one of the best-studied giant galaxies in the night sky. CTIO/NOIRLab/DOE/NSF/AURA Acknowledgments: PI: M. Soraisam (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign/NSF's NOIRLab) Image processing: T.A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage/NSF’s NOIRLab), M. Zamani (NSF’s NOIRLab) & D. de Martin (NSF’s NOIRLab)

“Radio telescopes reveal a colossal jet of matter spewing outward from the heart of the galaxy,” the National Science Foundation writes in its release of the image. “This jet is accelerated to almost half the speed of light by a supermassive black hole at the center of Centaurus A, and its bright emissions at radio wavelengths make this galaxy one of the most prominent radio sources in the night sky. In fact, in July 2021, the Event Horizon Telescope produced an image of a jet launching from the black hole in Centaurus A, which weighs in at 55 million times the mass of the sun.”

The Dark Energy Camera which captured this image was one of the main instruments used in the Dark Energy Survey, a large-scale astronomical survey which is scanning huge portions of the sky to attempt to unravel the mysteries of dark energy. As part of this survey, earlier this year the researchers released the most accurate map to date of the dark matter in the universe, located by analyzing the movements of distant objects and galaxies and identifying the gravitational effects of dark matter.

With the first set of observations for the Dark Energy Survey completed, the Dark Energy Camera is now being used for a range of scientific projects including capturing stunning images like this one of Centaurus A.

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Georgina Torbet
Georgina is the Digital Trends space writer, covering human space exploration, planetary science, and cosmology. She…
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