A description of a starry galaxy known as NGC 6951 is provided based on a new image captured by the NASA Hubble Space Telescope.NGC 6951 is an intermediate spiral galaxy located approximately 78 million light-years away in the Cepheus constellation.The image showcases the galaxy’s striking features, including bright blue spiral arms that gracefully coil around a bright-white central region.
The galaxy has an interesting stellar history that intrigues scientists. It experienced its highest rates of star formation approximately 800 million years ago. After this active period, it remained relatively inactive for around 300 million years before resuming star formation. NGC 6951 contains various star clusters, which are gravitationally-bound groups of stars.The average age of these star clusters is estimated to be between 200 to 300 million years old, with some clusters dating back as far as one billion years.The image reveals turbulent regions of gas, depicted in dark red, that surround the bright blue pinpricks representing star clusters. These gas regions are associated with ongoing star formation processes within the galaxy.
NGC 6951 is a visually captivating intermediate spiral galaxy with a dynamic history of star formation. The image highlights its distinctive spiral structure, star clusters of varying ages, and regions of active starbirth, making it a subject of interest for astronomers studying galactic evolution and stellar dynamics.
NGC 6951 is classified based on its astronomical characteristics.
Type II Seyfert Galaxy: NGC 6951 is often categorized as a Type II Seyfert galaxy. This classification refers to a type of active galaxy that emits substantial amounts of infrared radiation and displays slow-moving gaseous matter near its central region. Seyfert galaxies are known for having active galactic nuclei, where a supermassive black hole at the galaxy’s center generates intense energy emissions, including X-rays and infrared radiation.
Low-Ionization Nuclear Emission-Line Region (LINER) Galaxy: Some astronomers also classify NGC 6951 as a LINER galaxy. LINER galaxies share similarities with Type II Seyfert galaxies, but they have a cooler nucleus that emits weakly ionized or neutral atoms like oxygen, nitrogen, and sulfur.This classification helps differentiate it from other active galaxies with different characteristics.
Physical Size and Visibility: NGC 6951 is a relatively large galaxy, spanning about 75,000 light-years across. It is also favorably located near the northern celestial pole, making it visible from the northern hemisphere of Earth. This convenient positioning allows astronomers in the northern hemisphere to observe and study the galaxy.
The central structure of NGC 6951 is described.
NGC 6951 has a supermassive black hole at its center, which is a concentration of mass so immense that it generates an extremely strong gravitational pull. This black hole is surrounded by a complex system of stars, gas, and dust.
Encircling the supermassive black hole is a vast ring of stars, gas, and dust. This structure, known as the “circumnuclear ring,” spans an impressive 3,700 light-years in diameter. It’s important to note that a light-year is the distance that light travels in one year, which is approximately 5.88 trillion miles (9.46 trillion kilometers). This ring is estimated to be between 1 and 1.5 billion years old, and it has been actively forming stars for most of that time.
Scientists have observed that the circumnuclear ring of NGC 6951 is a hub for ongoing star formation. Interstellar gas, the raw material for creating stars, is thought to flow through the galaxy’s dense, starry bar region and ultimately reach the circumnuclear ring. This flow of gas supplies the necessary material for the continuous birth of new stars within the ring.
Remarkably, a significant portion of the mass within the circumnuclear ring consists of relatively young stars, less than 100 million years old. These young stars are actively forming, contributing to the overall dynamism of the region.
Within NGC 6951, there are prominent spiral lanes of dust depicted in dark orange. These dust lanes connect the central region of the galaxy to its outer regions. As dust accumulates and drifts along these lanes, it provides additional material for future star formation processes.
In the galaxy NGC 6951, some of the stars have undergone remarkable stellar explosions called supernovae. In the last 25 years, astronomers have observed and recorded as many as six of these cosmic events in this particular galaxy. This makes NGC 6951 a key target for scientific study, as researchers aim to gain a deeper understanding of the environments that give rise to supernovae.
By analyzing the emissions from these explosions, scientists are able to gather valuable information about the progenitor star, including its age, luminosity, and position in the galaxy. To further their understanding, astronomers have utilized data from Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 and Advanced Camera for Surveys, which captures both visible and infrared light. With these advanced tools, scientists hope to unlock more secrets about the mysterious and powerful phenomenon of supernovae.