Astronomers looked into the “Needle’s Eye”

A recent image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope captures a section of the dwarf spiral galaxy NGC 247, also known informally as the “Needle’s Eye”. It is located at a distance of 11 million light-years from the Milky Way and is part of the Sculptor group.

A section of the galaxy NGC 247 photographed by the Hubble telescope. Source: NASA, ESA, and H. Feng (Tsinghua University)

NGC 247 got its name thanks to the “hole” — a seemingly completely large area. In reality, this region is not completely empty and there are stars in it. But all these are old, red luminaries. But there are no young stars in this part of the galaxy for some reason. More than a billion years ago, an event stopped all star formation processes in this region. According to one version, this happened due to the gravitational interaction of NGC 247 with another galaxy.

The Hubble image is centered on NGC 247, located on the opposite edge of the galaxy from the “void”. We may notice several more distant background galaxies, as well as a bright star that lies between us and NGC 247. The red areas correspond to dense accumulations of gas and dust. Right now, they are in the process of forming new stars.

Galaxy NGC 247. Source: ESO

NGC 247 is also home to an ultra-bright X-ray source. Astronomers have been arguing about their nature for a long time. According to one version, they are stellar-mass black holes absorbing an unusually large amount of gas. According to another version, it is a black hole of intermediate mass. Such objects are tens of times more massive than their stellar counterparts, but significantly smaller than the black holes that are located in the centers of most galaxies. In the process of studying NGC 247, astronomers have found evidence indicating that we are really talking about a black hole of intermediate mass.

You can also read about a galaxy created by a black hole.

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