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HUBBLE PROBES THE BLACK HOLE INSIDE A MAJESTIC SPIRAL GALAXY

The graceful, winding arms of the majestic spiral galaxy NGC 3147 appear like a grand spiral staircase sweeping through space in this Hubble Space Telescope image. They are actually long lanes of young blue stars, pinkish nebulas, and dust in silhouette.

The beauty of the galaxy belies the fact that at its very center is a malnourished black hole surrounded by a thin, compact disk of stars, gas, and dust that have been caught up in a gravitational maelstrom. The black hole's gravity is so intense that anything that ventures near it gets swept up in the disk.

The disk is so deeply embedded in the black hole's intense gravitational field that the light from the gas disk is modified, according to Einstein's theories of relativity, giving astronomers a unique peek at the dynamic processes close to a black hole.

NGC 3147 is located 130 million light-years away in the northern circumpolar constellation Draco the Dragon.

Object Name(s): NGC 3147

Photo Credit: NASA

Content Source: NASA