Stunning image shows dark tendrils masking giant galaxy near Earth

Scientists have captured a stunning new image of a massive galaxy ringed by dust filaments.

In the image, Centaurus A, which is located more than 12 million light-years away from Earth in the southern constellation Centaurus (the centaur), ripples across space. The galaxy, which was first identified in 1826, is among the best studied in the southern sky because it is so bright and relatively close to Earth.

In the image, although stars glow, swaths of the galaxy are hidden by dust tendrils looping around the galaxy’s center, where a supermassive black hole containing 55 times the mass of the sun, hides and spews out a jet of matter that acts as a bright source of radio light.

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Among the dust are reddish hydrogen clouds, where new stars are forming, and faint blue stars outlining the corners of the dust cloud. The galaxy’s strange shape is the result of a long-ago encounter with another galaxy that left Centaurus A shrouded in dust.

The image comes from the Dark Energy Camera based at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile and is part of a project designed to identify rapidly changing objects, like supernovas, occurring in key galaxies of the southern sky.

Email Meghan Bartels at or follow her on Twitter @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.


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