The Hubble telescope has captured, for the first time, a megamaser galaxy which revealed a unique feat, two separate nuclei that are merging.
The Hubble Space Telescope or HST is behind quite a number of discoveries. It has come to be considered amongst the largest and most versatile such devices. It was launched in space in 1990. It has been flying in the Earth’s low orbit ever since.
Its technology has led to many important discoveries. Two of its instruments recently led to another. The devices involved in the megamaser discovery are the ACS and NICMOS.
ACS is the HTS Advanced Camera for Surveys. NICMOS is the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer.
They helped capture the presence of a so-called “megamaser”. This is an astrophysical maser subtype.
The current example was located in a galaxy located about 370 million light-years away. Scientists have gone to name the galaxy. It was titled IRAS 16399-0937.
The base behinds its potential megamaser theory is its unusual behavior. IRAS 16399-0937 was noted to be beaming intense microwave radiation bursts.
A maser is an acronym for the following. A microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. The phenomenon was linked to the early and late phases of a star’s life.
Our galaxy was seen to sport such maser emissions. They were detected in active regions that still form stars. Ionized spheres surrounding hot and young stars are another source of maser emissions.
A megamaser is a much more luminous such emission. It can be even more than 100 million times more bright than a maser found in galaxies such as ours.
ESA or the European Space Agency went to offer details. They were released in a statement, alongside with a photo of the IRAS 16399-0937.
According to ESA, a megamaser occurs when certain components meet the right conditions. More exactly, galaxy components such as gas clouds would have to reach a specific stage.
As their physical condition was sufficiently stimulated, they could come to radiate intense energy. It this present case, they are radiating intense microwaves.
The IRAS 16399-0937 galaxy was noted to have a unique feature. It was determined to contain two different nuclei. Also, the two are in a merger process. Furthermore, one of the nuclei may have another property.
Titled IRAS 16399N, it may possibly contain a supermassive black sun. This latter is believed to be about 100 million times the sun’s mass.
As such, IRAS 16399N was categorized as a LINER nucleus. LINER stands for Low Ionized Nuclear Emission Region.
The emissions detected in these regions come from a somewhat different source. They come from the neutral or weakly-ionized atoms of specific gasses.
IRAS 16399-0937 most probably is a starburst region. New stars were noticed to form at quite an incredible rate.
The galaxy has an unusual, rosebud-like structure. When observing it, the scientists reached the following conclusion. They believe that the region harbors two nuclei. They would be buried deep inside the same cosmic dust and gas swirl.
Its megamaser is one of the reasons behind its much closer inspection. It also led to the galaxy’s more reportedly futuristic and exciting classification.
Because of the megamaser, IRAS 16399-0937 acts out as a sort of astronomical laser. Only instead of visible light, it beams out microwave emissions.
Image Source: Wikimedia