Hubble finds out a cosmic megamaser – a new type of galaxy

A new classification of galaxy is found by Hubble – it hosts a megamaser. Megamasers are very bright, up to 100 million times brighter than the masers found in galaxies like our own. The entire galaxy is basicly  an astronomical laser that beams out microwave emission rather than visible light.

In a megamaser some components within the galaxy like gas are in the right physical condition to cause the amplification of light. But there are other parts of the galaxy  that aren’t part of this process.

IRAS 16399-0937 – a megamaser galaxy

This galaxy is named IRAS 16399-0937 and is located at 370 million light-years from Earth. This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image is the most detailed one of the galaxy, revealing what kind of processes happen inside. The image was captured in various wavelengths by two of Hubble’s instruments: the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), and the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS).

NICMOS’s superb sensitivity, resolution, and field of view gave astronomers the one in a time chance to observe the structure of IRAS 16399-0937 in detail. They found that it has a double core — the galaxy’s core is thought to be formed of two separate cores who are currently in the process of merging. The two components, named IRAS 16399N and IRAS 16399S for the northern and southern parts respectively, are separated by 11,000 light-years. They are both embedded deep within the same swirl of cosmic gas and dust and are interacting, giving the galaxy its odd shape.

The galaxy cores are very different. IRAS 16399S appears to be in a region churning out stars at an incredible rate. The northern part, IRAS 16399N, however,  is nearly the opposite, a region of weakly-ionised neutral gases called a LINEAR nucleus. The northern nucleus also hosts a black hole with some 100 million times the mass of the sun. For comparision, Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way, is only 4 million times the mass of the sun.