Galaxy Has Gas, Dust, Star Eating Monster at Center

Could be bad for us in a few million light years

It has a gleaming eye at the center and what looks like a gaping jaw poised to chomp.

The image from NASA's Spitzer Telescope is of NGC 1097, a swirly galaxy with a bright object at its center.

The galaxy is 50 million light years away, according to NASA. Scientists said the bright "eye" at the center is actually a black hole that's feeding off a galactic buffet of gas, dust and stars.

And not just any black hole. It's estimated at 100 million times the mass of the sun.

The Milky Way's black hole has the mass of only a few million suns.

"The fate of this black hole and others like it is an active area of research," said George Helou, deputy director of NASA's Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "Some theories hold that the black hole might quiet down and eventually enter a more dormant state like our Milky Way black hole."

The ring of stars around the black hole might hold secrets, too.

"The ring itself is a fascinating object worthy of study because it is forming stars at a very high rate," said Kartik Sheth, an astronomer at NASA's Spitzer Science Center.

The Spitzer mission is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

Contact Us