CFHT, Current Image of the Week


January 8th, 2001

NGC 1068: The Monster next to us!

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NGC 1068: The Monster next to us!

Credit: Image courtesy of Olivier Lai

This magnificent spiral galaxy, known as NGC 1068 or Messier 77, is located some 60 million light years away from us. This galaxy is also an active galaxy, which mean that there is likely a black hole at its center. It belongs to a class of objects called Seyfert II galaxies. It is the closest Seyfert Galaxy to us.

The proximity is this spectacular spiral galaxy allows us to study its central parts in greater details than any other of this class. Extensive research work was done to understand this peculair object. It has been found that the "object", the "thing" located at its center had to be extremely massive and compact to at least 10 million solar masses located inside less than 10 light years or so, hence the nickname "monster" for the central object. With such properties, you guessed it, the central object is likely to be a "black hole".

In the disk of NGC 1068 surrounding the central active nucleus, intense star formation activity has also been found. Some of these star forming regions are visible in the image shown here as little bright "blueish dots" located along the inner spiral arms of the galaxy. They appear bright as they emit more than their immediate surroundings in an emission-line of ionised Hydrogen called Brackett Gamma. In this case, images in the Brackett line was obtained by using a narrow-band filter center on the proper wavelength, at 2.16 microns. This emission line traces ionised hydrogen emission typical of intense star forming regions. These star formation regions are among the brightest known, and perhaps the most luminous within a distance of 100 million light years from us.

Technical description:

This is the thris week where an image from the new infrared camera available at CFHT, CFHT-IR, is featured. Once again, this is a color-composite image. the true orientation of the object is conserved, with North up and East to the left. The final image was obtained by combining three images taken in the broadband filters covering the I- and K-bands, at 800nm and 2200nm respectively. A third image was obtained in a narrow filter centered on the Brackett Gamma line of ionised Hydrogen, at 2.166 microns. This emission is a good tracer, in the infrared, of star formation activity.

CFHT-IR, similarly to KIR, is based on a Rockwell 1024 X 1024 HAWAII chip. Its full field of view is 3.6 X 3.6 arcminutes. CFHT-IR can operate from 0.8microns to 2.5microns. It can also be fitted behind the OSIS spectrograph to provide near-infrared multi-object spectroscopic capabilities in the 1.1 to 1.8 micron window.

A complete description of CFHT-IR can be found on this web site.

next week: To be announced shortly

editors: François Ménard, Jean-Charles Cuillandre, & Catherine Dougados
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