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Dusty Elliptical Galaxy Centaurus A
Ssc2004 09a1

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/J. Keene (SSC/Caltech)

Observation • June 1st, 2004 • ssc2004-09a1


This image taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows in unprecedented detail the galaxy Centaurus A's last big meal: a spiral galaxy seemingly twisted into a parallelogram-shaped structure of dust. Spitzer's ability to see dust and also see through it allowed the telescope to peer into the center of Centaurus A and capture this galactic remnant as never before.

An elliptical galaxy located 10 million light-years from Earth, Centaurus A is one of the brightest sources of radio waves in the sky. These radio waves indicate the presence of a supermassive black hole, which may be "feeding" off the leftover galactic meal.

A high-speed jet of gas can be seen shooting above the plane of the galaxy (the faint, fuzzy feature pointing from the center toward the upper left). Jets are a common feature of galaxies, and this one is probably receiving an extra boost from the galactic remnant.

Scientists have created a model that explains how such a strangely geometric structure could arise. In this model, a spiral galaxy falls into an elliptical galaxy, becoming warped and twisted in the process. The folds in the warped disc create the parallelogram-shaped illusion.

About the Object

Centaurus ANGC 5128
Galaxy > Type > Elliptical
Galaxy > Type > Interacting
11,000,000 Light Years

Color Mapping

Band Wavelength Telescope
Infrared 3.6 µm Spitzer IRAC
Infrared 4.5 µm Spitzer IRAC
Infrared 5.8 µm Spitzer IRAC
Infrared 8.0 µm Spitzer IRAC


Position (J2000)
RA =13h 25m 26.7s
Dec = -43° 1' 6.7"
Field of View
23.4 x 17.6 arcminutes
North is 361.1° left of vertical