The Very Large Telescope’s Enhanced Resolution Imager and Spectrograph (ERIS) has managed to obtain a very detailed image of the heart of the NGC 1097 galaxy. That means that the powerful telescope has managed to obtain a photo from a space object located roughly 45 million light-years away in the Fornax constellation.
As it happens in all the other galaxies out there, the so-called “heart” of NGC 1097 consists of a higher density of stars compared to the rest of the galaxy. That’s why the heart, core, or however you wish to call it, is so bright.
Considering the Milky Way, we should consider ourselves lucky to have our planet placed closer to the edges of our galaxy rather than in the proximity of the core. The night sky is dark simply because the density of stars in our area is not so high compared to how it happens in the galaxy’s heart. If Earth was located in the core of the Milky Way, the night sky would all be luminous due to the higher density of stars.
ERIS will observe objects in infrared
The new ERIS instrument is very powerful, and it will certainly delight us a lot more in the near future with its space observations. But we can already get a taste of what it’s made of:
1/ ERIS, a new infrared instrument at ESO's Very Large Telescope in Chile, has just completed its test observations. One of them exposed the ring at the heart of the galaxy NGC 1097 in mesmerising detail.
— ESO (@ESO) November 23, 2022
Ric Davies, who’s an astronomer from the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany, stated more about the importance of the ERIS instrument, as ESO’s website quotes:
ERIS breathes new life into the fundamental adaptive optics imaging and spectroscopy capability of the VLT,
Thanks to the efforts of all those involved in the project over the years, many science projects are now able to benefit from the exquisite resolution and sensitivity the instrument can achieve.
NGC 1097 was discovered over two centuries ago
Another fascinating aspect about the NGC 1097 galaxy is that it was discovered over 200 years ago – in 1790, to be more precise, by William Herschel, a German-Brittish astronomer. During the last 30 years, astronomers have observed three supernovae dwelling in the galaxy: SN 1992bd, SN 1999eu, and SN 2003B.
The NGC 1097 galaxy is also known as Caldwell 67, and it is classified as a barred spiral galaxy. It’s also considered a Seyfert galaxy, meaning one of the two largest groups of galaxies that are active, along with quasars.
Just as many other galaxies existing out there, NGC 1097 also harbors a supermassive galaxy at its core. That cosmic monster is 140 million times more massive than the Sun. However, despite their unfathomable destructive potential, supermassive black holes have very positive roles while being placed at the heart of galaxies. The entire NGC 1097 galaxy might not have existed without a black hole at its center, which is fascinating. If black holes had never existed, each and every one of us would have probably never been here.
Fornax: an unquenchable furnace
Fornax, the constellation where the NGC 1097 galaxy exists, has received its name from the Latin word that means ‘furnace.’ Fornax is a member of the 88 modern constellations, and it got its name due to the French astronomer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille. He named the constellation back in 1756.
The three brightest stars in the Fornax constellation are Alpha, Beta and Nu Fornacis.
Another important aspect about Fornax to keep in mind is that it’s the 41st largest constellation that appears in the night sky, as it occupies an area of 398 square degrees.
The European Southern Observatory (ESO) is operating the Very Large Telescope (VLT) from Chile. More precisely, VLT is placed on the Cerro Paranal mountain from the Atacama Desert of the northern parts of the South American country. As for the diameter of the imposing structure, here it is: 4 x 8.2-meter Unit Telescopes (UT) as well as 4 x 1.8-meter moveable Auxiliary Telescopes (AT).