Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

June 22, 1998
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download 
 the highest resolution version available.

The Doomed Dust Disk of NGC 7052
Credit: R. P. van der Marel (STScI) et al., WFPC2, HST, NASA

Explanation: What created the dust disk in the center of NGC 7052, and what keeps it spinning? Although the disk might appear as a relatively tame "hubcap in space", the unusual center of elliptical galaxy NGC 7052 is probably the remnant of a titanic collision between galaxies. What's more, the disk's spin indicates the tremendous gravity of a massive central black hole. Analysis of this recently released photo by the Hubble Space Telescope indicates that the disk is thousands of light-years across, rotates faster than 100 kilometers per second, at a distance of 150 light-years from the center, and contains more mass than a million Suns. The theorized central black hole is thought to be yet 100 times more massive, and may swallow the entire disk in the next few million years.

Tomorrow's picture: A Slice Through an Artificial Universe

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
&: Michigan Tech. U.