Spanish dancer Galaxy twirls from NSF’s NOIRLab in Chile

Newswise — Located in the constellation Dorado and located about 70 million light-years away, NGC 1566 is a grandly designed spiral galaxy with two arms that appear to wrap around the galactic core, much like the arms of a dancer as they spin and spin in a furious whirlwind. This image was taken from Chile at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), a program of NSFit’s NOIRLab, using the dark energy camera. The galaxy’s face-on view, location, and composition make it a wealth of observing opportunities for astronomers in many fields of astronomy.

NGC 1566 is home to stars at all stages of stellar evolution. In this image, the bright blue color that draws the arms of the galaxy comes from bright young stars. The darker spots inside these arms are dust lanes. The arms are gas-rich and form large-scale areas that provide the perfect environment for new star formation. Closer to the center of the galaxy are cooler, older stars and dust, all evident by the redder color of the image. This galaxy was even host to an observed stellar end-of-life event, when a supernovanamed SN2010el, burst onto the scene in 2010.

The center of NGC 1566 is dominated by a a supermassive black hole. The distinct and very bright core of the galaxy is known as a active galactic nucleus. Light from the core changes on timescales of only a few hundred days, making it difficult for astronomers to classify it exactly.

NGC 1566 is the brightest member, and one of three dominant members, of a collection of galaxies known as the Dorado Groupof which another member is NGC 1515. Galaxy groups are collections of less than 50 galaxies, loosely held together by the gravitational pull each exerts on the others. The Dorado group consists of at least 46 galaxies. NGC 1566 itself is so dominant that it has its own group, the NGC 1566 group. NGC 1566’s dominant role in the Dorado group has made it a key target for scientists aiming to determine the distance to the group itself. , thereby improving our understanding of large-scale structures within the Universe.

The image was taken for the Dark Energy Survey (DES), a US-funded project Ministry of Energy (DOE) and National Science Foundation (NSF) which aims to discover the nature of dark energy by mapping millions of galaxies. The Dark Energy Survey is a collaboration of over 400 scientists from 26 institutions in seven countries. This image was captured using a camera specially designed for DES: the Dark Energy Camera (DECam). One of the world’s most capable wide-field CCD imagers, DECam was operated by DOE and NSF between 2013 and 2019. DECam was funded by DOE and was built and tested at DOE’s Fermilab. Currently, DECam is used for programs covering a wide range of sciences.

The galaxy shown here continues to intrigue astronomers. NGC 1566 and eighteen other nearby galaxies will be observed in infrared light with NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) by Gemini ObservatoryNOIRLab’s chief scientist, astronomer Janice Lee, as part of the PHANG project. This project will make observations of galaxies that can be seen face-on from Earth and will take advantage of JWST’s ability to see through gas and dust to study stars in their early stages of formation.

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NSF’s NOIRLab (National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory), the American center for ground-based optical-infrared astronomy, operates the international network Gemini Observatory (a facility of NSF, NRC–Canada, ANID–Chile, MCTIC–Brazil, MINCyT–Argentinaand KASI–Republic of Korea), Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO), Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO), the Community Science and Data Center (CSDC), and Vera C. Rubin Observatory (in cooperation with DOEit’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory). It is managed by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (WILL HAVE) under a cooperation agreement with NSF and is headquartered in Tucson, Arizona. The astronomical community is honored to have the opportunity to conduct astronomical research on Iolkam Du’ag (Kitt Peak) in Arizona, Maunakea in Hawai’i, and Cerro Tololo and Cerro Pachón in Chile. We recognize and recognize the very important cultural role and respect these sites have for the Tohono O’odham Nation, the Native Hawaiian community and the local communities of Chile, respectively.

This work is funded in part by the Office of Science of the US Department of Energy. the Dark Energy Investigation is a collaboration of more than 400 scientists from 26 institutions in seven countries. Funding for DES projects was provided by the US Department of Energy Office of Science, US National Science Foundation, Ministry of Science and Education of Spain, Science and Technology Facilities Council of the United Kingdom, Higher Education Funding Council for England, ETH Zurich for Switzerland, National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Kavli Institute of Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago, Center for Cosmology and AstroParticle Physics at Ohio State University, Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy of Texas A&M University, Financiadora de Estudos e Projetos, Fundação Carlos Chagas Filho de Amparo a Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico and Ministério da Ciência e Tecnologia, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, and the institutions collaborating in the Dark Energy Survey.

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