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September 10, 1996
M77: Spiral with a Strange Glow
Credit: UIT, NASA
Explanation: Why is M77 surrounded by an ultraviolet glow? M77, also called NGC 1068, appears at first sight to be a relatively normal barred spiral galaxy. But when photographed in the ultraviolet (UV), as shown above in false color, the galaxy sports an ultraviolet halo - shown as violet in the photograph. The blue spiral structure closer to the picture's center indicates normal ultraviolet emission from bright young stars that have recently formed there. Astronomers now hypothesize that the outer glow arises from UV light emitted from the galaxy's active center and reflected to us from clouds of gas and dust. These same gas and dust clouds obscure the active center of this Seyfert galaxy - where an ultramassive black hole is thought to live.
Authors & editors:
NASA Technical Rep.: Sherri Calvo. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC