Rebel rebel

Most galaxies possess a majestic spiral or elliptical structure. About a quarter of galaxies, though, defy such conventional, rounded aesthetics, instead sporting a messy, indefinable shape. Known as irregular galaxies, this group includes NGC 5408, the galaxy that has been snapped here by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

English polymath John Herschel recorded the existence of NGC 5408 in June 1834. Astronomers had long mistaken NGC 5408 for a planetary nebula, an expelled cloud of material from an aging star. Instead, bucking labels, NGC 5408 turned out to be an entire galaxy, located about 16 million light-years from Earth in the constellation of Centaurus (The Centaur).

In yet another sign of NGC 5408 breaking convention, the galaxy is associated with an object known as an ultraluminous X-ray source, dubbed NGC 5408 X-1, one of the best studied of its class. These rare objects beam out prodigious amounts of energetic X-rays. Astrophysicists believe these sources to be strong candidates for intermediate-mass black holes. This hypothetical type of black hole has significantly less mass than the supermassive black holes found in galactic centres, which can have billions of times the mass of the Sun, but have a good deal more mass than the black holes formed when giant stars collapse.

A version of this image was entered into the Hubble's Hidden Treasures image processing competition by contestant Judy Schmidt.

Credit:

ESA/Hubble & NASA
Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt (Geckzilla)

About the Image

Id:potw1603a
Type:Observation
Release date:18 January 2016, 06:00
Size:1257 x 902 px

About the Object

Name:NGC 5408
Type:Local Universe : Galaxy : Type : Irregular
Distance:16 million light years
Constellation:Centaurus
Category:Galaxies

Image Formats

Large JPEG
649.1 KB
Screensize JPEG
385.9 KB

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510.3 KB
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756.8 KB
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994.4 KB
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1.4 MB

Coordinates

Position (RA):14 3 21.34
Position (Dec):-41° 22' 41.75"
Field of view:2.09 x 1.50 arcminutes
Orientation:North is 28.9° left of vertical

Colours & filters

BandWavelengthTelescope
Infrared
Y
1.05 μm Hubble Space Telescope
WFC3
Infrared
H
1.6 μm Hubble Space Telescope
WFC3
Optical
H-alpha
656 nm Hubble Space Telescope
WFPC2

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