The Sombrero Hat Galaxy


The Sombrero Galaxy in Infrared Light

The Sombrero Galaxy in Infrared Light

Imagine dropping out of hyperlight flight five light years away and slightly above the galactic plane of the Sombrero Galaxy.  Would the bridge of your interstellar research ship be bathed in the immense stellar glow of this beautiful galaxy?  What a sight that would be!  As mentioned in earlier posts, this galaxy is is one of my favorites.  It is very photogenic and can be easily seen by the amateur astronomer.

The Sombrero Galaxy or the Sombrero Hat Galaxy is an unbarred spiral galaxy located in the constellation Virgo.   What makes this galaxy somewhat unique is the very large central bulge and the symmetrical dust lane wrapped around the galactic plane.  It is thought that this dust lane is the primary star creation mechanism in this galaxy.  The central bulge contains a super massive black hole which was discovered in the 1990s.  The presence of the black hole is inferred because a mass 1 billion times the mass of our sun would be required to maintain the observed speed of rotation.

The Sombrero Galaxy in Visible Light

The Sombrero Galaxy in Visible Light

In order to observe the Sombrero Galaxy, you need to point your telescope to the constellation Virgo.  It is located 11.5 degrees west of Spica and 5.5 degrees northeast of  Eta Corvi.  You would need at least an eight inch telescope to be able to discern the central bulge and probably a twelve inch scope to be able to see the dust lane.

Of course, if you were actually only five light years from it in your interstellar research ship, you’d be looking at it without a scope!



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