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8 images of galaxies far, far away

By: Katherine Butler on March 11, 2012, 7:13 p.m.
NGC 1097 galaxy

Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/The SINGS Team (SSC/Caltech)

5 of 10

Coiled creature of the night

Meet NGC 1097, a galaxy located about 50 million light-years away. The object at the center of the galaxy is a massive black hole with a ring of stars surrounding it. As NASA reports, “The black hole is huge, about 100 million times the mass of our sun, and is feeding off gas and dust along with the occasional unlucky star. Our Milky Way's central black hole is tame in comparison, with a mass of a few million suns.” The red dust is though to be heated by newborn stars, while the older stars are blue. The blue smudge to the left of the black hole is actually a smaller companion galaxy, though experts don’t know if its position is simply the result of a chance alignment.