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Hubble Snaps Incredible Views Of A Cosmic Microwave Laser


ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt (geckzilla)

ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt (geckzilla)


While we were having delicious food and discussing with friends, Hubble made some of the best possible observations of galaxy IRAS 16399-0937.


Being 370 million light-years far away from the Milky Way, this object is a maser, kind of natural laser, in which the light emission can be observed in microwaves rather than in visible light. Not as the regular maser,IRAS 16399 is regarded as a megamaser, because it is 100 million times brighter than the masers discovered in galaxies suc has the Milky Way!


The working principle of lasers is to stimulate light emissions at a very special frequency from a certain gas. It is in the similar way that some galactic gas clouds have the right conditions to generate microwaves, for example, exactly like this object, again all at the same frequency.


From the observations provideed by the Hubble, we can have a crystal clear view of this galaxy. The object is abnormally shaped owing to the fact that it’s the product when two galaxies of almost the same mass collided. Such galactic merger is not only accountable for the wonderful structure of the galaxy, but also for the activities in the two bright cores observable in the space telescope image.


The north core, IRAS 16399N, is called as a LINER, Low-Ionization Nuclear Emission Region, which is regarded as a very quiet region according to galactic standards. However, the south core, termed as RAS 16399S is very active in forming new stars at a rate of dozens, if not hundreds, of times higher than the Milky Way.


However, you should not be fooled by such difference in activity. The real kicker hides in IRAS 16399N, where a supermassive black hole 100 million times the mass of our Sun hides in waiting surrounded by gas. The distance between IRAS 16399N and IRAS 16399S s 11,000 light-years, but they are moving closer to each other.


At last, the two cores will merge and the supermassive black hole will wake up. When it occurs in a few hundred million years, powerful jets will heat up the galaxy and choke any new star formation. However at present, and for a quite long period of time, we can enjoy this magnificent image of this unbelievable galaxy.

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