Ring of star formation forms around galactic supermassive black hole
The processes occurring around a supermassive black hole have produced a ringed eruption of star formation stretching 5,000 lightyears across.
45 million lightyears from Earth lies NGC 1097, a spiral galaxy in the constellation of Fornax with a beautiful star-bursting nuclear ring surrounding it.
This ring is produced by accelerated bursts of star formation around the supermassive black hole at the centre of the galaxy.
Astronomers now think that most galaxies have a supermassive black hole at their centre, and that they could play a large role in the formation and evolution of the host galaxy over time.
These supermassive black holes are responsible for the bright core we see at the centre of many galaxies.
Black holes have a representation of being cosmic vacuum cleaners, sucking up everything that comes too close, but as material falls into black holes, it spirals inwards and forms a surrounding disc.
This accretion disk heats up due to gravitational and frictional forces and emits light as a result.
The ring seen in this new image of NGC 1097 has formed as a result of these processes at work.
Cosmic dust, gas and debris from the galaxy are falling into the supermassive black hole, heating up surrounding matter, forming an accretion disk and emitting bursts of energy into the nearby region.
This has generated the formation of the star-bursting ring seen here in pink and purple.
The ring is about 5,000 lightyears across, which might sound huge, but is actually rather small in cosmic terms. The galaxy itself extends tens of thousands of lightyears from the centre.
Release date 11 January 2021
Observatory Very Large Telescope
Credit ESO/TIMER survey
Iain Todd is BBC Sky at Night Magazine's Staff Writer. He fell in love with the night sky when he caught his first glimpse of Orion, aged 10.