What's happening at the center of spiral galaxy M106? A swirling disk of stars and gas, M106's appearance is dominated by blue spiral arms and red dust lanes near the nucleus, as shown in the featured image. The core of M106 glows brightly in radio waves and X-rays where twin jets have been found running the length of the galaxy. An unusual central glow makesM106 one of the closest examples of the Seyfert class of galaxies, where vast amounts of glowing gas are thought to be falling into a central massive black hole. M106, also designated NGC4258, is a relatively close 23.5 million light years away, spans 60 thousand light years across, and can be seen with a small telescope towards the constellation of the Hunting Dogs (Canes Venatici).
Five billion light-years from earth, there's a massive galactic pileup unfolding in slow motion. As four clusters of galaxies plow into each other, thousands of individual galaxies are colliding—creating huge amounts of cosmic chaos and a lot of energy.
New images of this phenomenon—one of the largest galactic mergers on record—suggest it's also producing more than just pretty pictures. It's also serving as quite possibly the largest particle accelerator of all time, besting the exquisitely engineered Large Hadron Collider one million times over.
This image, taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows the dusty structure encircling the center of the galaxy, forming a knotted ring around the galaxy's brightly glowing middle. Interestingly, this ring lies perpendicular to the plane of NGC 2768 itself, stretching up and out of the galaxy.
The galaxy has a diameter of around 100,000 light years, making it about the size of the Milky Way. Notably, six observed supernovae exist within Messier 61, placing it in a group of galaxies which includes Messier 83, also with six supernovae observed, and NGC 6946, having nine observed supernovae. Messier 61 makes up part of the Virgo Galaxy Cluster, a massive group of galaxies in the constellation of Virgo (the Virgin).
In February of 2012, astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope discovered a cluster of young, blue stars in the spectacular edge-on galaxy (ESO 243-49 above), encircling the first intermediate-mass black hole ever found. The presence of the star cluster suggests that the black hole was once at the core of a now-disintegrated dwarf galaxy.