Have you heard this line: “look at the stars, look how they shine for you”? That line is from “Yellow,” a song written by Coldplay. Like what the song suggests, look at the stars.
When the pandemic struck nations, it brought changes in our daily routines and how we see our planet. Noise and air pollution lessened due to lockdowns. As a result, even in the city sky, you can look and actually see the stars. You might already have your favorite constellations, Ursa Minor, maybe? Or maybe Polaris – the North Star. But what if I tell you that it’s not only the stars that you can see but also galaxies?
If you are in awe of the stars twinkling in the night sky, you will definitely love to see the galaxies. There are an estimated 100 billion galaxies in the universe, but as technology develops and with the use of a telescope, this number might increase.
We all know that stargazing remains to be among the most favorite activities for people. Stars never cease to amaze us. Stargazing becomes very prominent among camps and backpacking, and these are among the best telescopes for these activities.
But you can also see galaxies with your naked eye; you have the Andromeda – the closest one to ours; and Centaurus A – the fifth brightest galaxy visible in the sky. There are indeed people who take the study of stars and heavenly bodies more seriously; therefore, they need more high-end telescopes recommended for astronomy.
Although Andromeda is the famous one among the two, here is a reason why you should pay close attention to Centaurus A.
Centaurus A, which also bears the name NGC 5128 or Caldwell 77, is another galaxy within the constellation of Centaurus. In 1826, it was discovered by Scottish astronomer James Dunlop from the skies of his home in New South Wales, Australia.
It is believed that Centaurus A is around 10-16 million light-years (3 -5 megaparsecs) away from ours, with a diameter of 60 000 light-years.
Centaurus A is considered the fifth-brightest in the sky. This makes this galaxy a favorite among newbie and amateur astronomy-enthusiasts to watch and study. This galaxy is only visible from low northern latitudes and the southern hemisphere.
Here are more fascinating facts about the galaxy:
The center of the galaxy contains a supermassive black hole with a mass of 55 million solar masses.
This galaxy is also considered the largest and nearest radio galaxy. This means that there is a massive source of radio wavelengths from Centaurus A.
It has an active nucleus. This is quite extraordinary since pieces of matter fall into the supermassive black hole in its center and shoot electrons from its poles at half the speed of light, creating massive jets that spread thousands of light-years into space.
Researchers and astronomers speculate that the birth of Centaurus A was probably a result of two galaxies smashing onto each other. They also speculated that one of these two galaxies is an older elliptical galaxy that merged with one smaller spiral galaxy.
Astronomers continue to believe that this original collision and its impact resulted in the epic radio lobe that spreads millions of light-years in the opposite direction from the dust band.
Astronomers also have reasons to believe that within this galaxy, there exists huge and massive starburst. This refers to the formation of new blue stars in the dust band and the edges of the two massive radio lobes.
The Centaurus A has a different structure as compared to other galaxies. This galaxy is composed of red stars; if you remember your lessons, these red stars are the oldest among the other stars. However, further research shows an abundance of blue stars – the youngest star among other colors, indicating high formation activity. The formation of these new blue stars is called a starburst.
Now, aren’t you interested to see that? You don’t have to work at NASA to see this galaxy. All you have to do is buy yourself a telescope. Even amateur ones can gaze upon the stars and get amazed.
The universe is indeed vast and massive. While we talk about one particular galaxy, there are hundreds, or even thousands, out there. This makes us reflect more that we live in such a fantastic universe, one that is well-designed. This also makes us feel very small, which should overwhelm and humble us to remain grateful for our existence.