Centaurus A (NGC 5128)

Posted by Michael Bakich
on Thursday, July 21, 2011

Photo by Ken Crawford

Seeing Centaurus A (NGC 5128) high in the sky is one of the thrills of Southern Hemisphere observing. Observers call it the Hamburger Galaxy because two stellar regions (the bun) surround a dark dusty lane (the burger). Unfortunately, most northern viewers get only a taste of this object’s details. For example, from Tucson, Arizona, NGC 5128 climbs to a maximum altitude of 15°. Viewing any object through that much of Earth’s atmosphere presents a distorted view. For best results, head farther south.

NGC 5128’s appearance arises from a galactic collision. The main body of Centaurus A — a giant elliptical galaxy — is absorbing a smaller spiral galaxy. The two objects collided more than 200 million years ago, causing huge bouts of star formation.
Data: 14.5-inch RC Optical Systems Ritchey-Chrétien reflector at f/8.3, Apogee Alta U9000 CCD camera, LRGB image with exposures of 560, 260,180, and 280 minutes, respectively

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