Something rich and strange – Hubble eyes NGC 5972
We just got the processed Hubble images for NGC 5972. This is a galaxy with active nucleus, large double radio source, and the most extensive ionized gas we turned up in the Voorwerpje project. We knew from ground-based data that the gas is so extensive that some would fall outside the Hubble field (especially in the [O III] emission lines – for technical reasons that filter has a smaller field of view). We expected from those data that it would be spectacular. Now we have it, and the Universe once again didn’t disappoint. Another nucleus with a loop of ionized gas pushing outward (this time lined up with the giant radio source), twisted braids of gas like a 30,000-light-year double helix, and dramatically twisted filaments of dust suggesting that the galaxy still hasn’t settled down from a strong disturbance.
Here’s a combination of the Hα image (red) and [O III] (green) data, with the caution that neither has been corrected for the contribution of starlight yet. The image is about 40 arcseconds across, which translates to 75,000 light-years at the distance of NGC 5972. This gives the team plenty to mull over – for now I’ll just leave you all with this view. (Click to enlarge – you really want to.)