Dark Energy Camera photographs galaxy with “Grand Design”

Employees of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile published a new image obtained using the Dark Energy Camera (DECam). You can see the galaxy NGC 5364 in its left part.

Galaxy NGC 5364 (left part of the frame). Source: Dark Energy Survey/DOE/FNAL/DECam/CTIO/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA

NGC 5364 is located at a distance of 54 million light-years from the Milky Way in the direction of the constellation Virgo. At first glance, it looks like an ordinary spiral galaxy — except that its core is rather dim compared to the spiral arms, which indicates a low rate of star formation in this region.

But this is not quite true. The fact is that NGC 5364 belongs to a rather rare variety of spiral galaxies with a “Grand Design”. Such objects are characterised by the presence of powerful, pronounced and well-designed arms that clearly emanate from their centre. It is believed that about 10% of all spiral galaxies belong to this type. Due to their “ideal” structure, they are considered the archetype of spiral galaxies. 

However, NGC 5364 is still not as perfect as the name suggests. Compared to other “Grand Designs”, its arms are actually amorphous and asymmetrical. It is assumed that this distortion is caused by tidal interactions with the nearby lenticular galaxy NGC 5363, which is visible in this image as a fuzzy spot under NGC 5364. The effect of gravity led to the movement of stars and gas inside the spiral arms of NGC 5364 and deformation of its general shape.

The Dark Energy Camera that took the picture of NGC 5364 is one of the most advanced astronomical instruments of our time. It collects the light reflected by the 4-metre mirror of the Victor Blanco telescope and passes it through its insides, including a metre-long corrective lens. It is then captured by a grid of 62 devices with extremely sensitive CCD arrays. They allow DECam to create detailed images of faint astronomical objects and reveal subtle patterns of cosmic structure caused by the influence of dark energy and dark matter.

According to https://noirlab.edu

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