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A cosmic question mark
DR EMILY BALDWIN
ASTRONOMY NOW
Posted: 12 August 2010


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Things are not as serene as they may first seem in this elliptical galaxy, for behind its dark dust lane lies hidden turmoil.

NGC 4696 as seen by Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys. Image: ESA/Hubble/NASA.

NGC 4696 is the largest galaxy in the Centaurus Cluster and is an elliptical galaxy with a difference. In this Hubble Space Telescope image, as well as its incomplete dust band that spans some 30,000 light years across and appears to curl around itself like a question mark, capillary-like filaments of ionized hydrogen hang above and below it, giving the galaxy's bright centre a subtle marbling effect.

Chandra's X-ray eyes reveal a vast cloud of hot gas (red) surrounding high-energy bubbles 10,000 light years across (blue) on either side of the area surrounding the black hole.

Elliptical galaxies most likely form by collisions between spiral galaxies, suffering a burst of star formation that quickly subsides to leave a population of ageing stars. NGC 4696 has hidden depths, however. Lurking deep within the galaxy's centre is a supermassive black hole ejecting matter at nearly the speed of light. Probing the galaxy at X-ray wavelengths with the Chandra X-ray Observatory shows huge voids in the galaxy's material, testament to the jets' incredible power.

The Planets
From tiny Mercury to distant Neptune and Pluto, The Planets profiles each of the Solar System's members in depth, featuring the latest imagery from space missions. The tallest mountains, the deepest canyons, the strongest winds, raging atmospheric storms, terrain studded with craters and vast worlds of ice are just some of the sights you'll see on this 100-page tour of the planets.
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Hubble Reborn
Hubble Reborn takes the reader on a journey through the Universe with spectacular full-colour pictures of galaxies, nebulae, planets and stars as seen through Hubble's eyes, along the way telling the dramatic story of the space telescope, including interviews with key scientists and astronauts.
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3D Universe
Witness the most awesome sights of the Universe as they were meant to be seen in this 100-page extravaganza of planets, galaxies and star-scapes, all in 3D!
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