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Published on Wednesday, 01 August 2012 00:00


alma views_cenaCentaurus A. (ALMA [ESO/NAOJ/NRAO], ESO/Y Beletsky)



This is what ALMA can show of the dusty centre of radio galaxy Centaurus A. ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimetre Array, is still under construction and is in its early science phase of observations, but is already the most powerful telescope of its kind. Cen A is the closest and most powerful radio galaxy in our sky, powered by a supermassive black hole with a mass about 100 million times that of the Sun at its centre. But the central regions of this massive elliptical galaxy are also home to a lot of gas and dust, which has obscured attempts to explore why it is such a powerful radio source using visible light.

This image combines infrared imagery with 1.3 mm data from ALMA arising from carbon monoxide molecules. This radiation is shown in yellow where there is no relative motion between the source gas and us; CO moving towards us is shown in green and that away from us in orange. The gas is orbiting around the galaxy, aligned with a ring of stars and clusters visible in the near-infrared background image. These are the remains of a spiral galaxy that collided with the giant elliptical galaxy and produced much of the gas and dust. 

This image is published in the August 2012 issue of Astronomy & Geophysics magazine.

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