NASA scientists have made a striking discovery. According to a new report shared by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, astronomers have spotted what they believe to be a galactic fossil filled with X-ray activity that could shed new light on the evolution of galaxies.
The discovery is detailed in both the report and a new video shared on YouTube. The video explains how the galaxy NGC 4945 was spurred into a frenzy of star formation thanks to the eruption of the supermassive black hole at its center roughly 5 million years ago.
It’s an intriguing story and one that definitely sheds some light on the unique appearance of this galaxy and galactic evolution as a whole. By studying this galactic fossil more in-depth, NASA scientists can hopefully unravel the details of why the black hole at its center exploded and determine fully whether or not it was this eruption that fueled the galaxy’s frenzied formation of stars.
Kimberly Weaver, an astrophysicist with Goddard who led the research, presented the findings at the 243rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society in New Orleans on January 11. The team has a paper on the findings, too, and it is currently under review by The Astrophysical Journal. If it is approved, it will be published for everyone to read.
NGC 4945 is an active galaxy located roughly 13 million light years away from our planet in the constellation Centaurus. As noted above, it has a supermassive black hole at its center and is home to a frenzy of star formation known as a starburst. Scientists estimate that this galactic fossil produces the equivalent mass of 18 Suns every year. That is close to three times the rate of the Milky Way’s star formation.
Further, the bulk of that star formation is found in the galaxy’s center. These starburst events, as seen in this galactic fossil, are estimated to last anywhere from 10 to 100 million years, so it is unclear when NGC 4945’s will come to a close.