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Deep Space Spotlight: Centaurus A

Centaurus A, credit ESO/WFI (Optical); MPIfR/ESO/APEX/A.Weiss et al. (Submillimetre); NASA/CXC/CfA/R.Kraft et al. (X-ray)
Photo: Centaurus A | ESO/WFI (Optical); MPIfR/ESO/APEX/A.Weiss et al. (Submillimetre); NASA/CXC/CfA/R.Kraft et al. (X-ray)

Centaurus A (aka NGC 5128 or Caldwell 77) is a visually-striking starburst¬†galaxy1 located in the constellation Centaurus. It’s the fifth-brightest galaxy visible from Earth, making it an ideal viewing subject for amateur astronomers in the southern hemisphere and at low northern latitudes. At the galaxy’s center is a supermassive black hole with a mass over 55 million times that of our Sun! It also contains two supernovae, which are stars that have burst into massive explosions at the end of their life cycles.

Centaurus A was discovered by Scottish astronomer James Dunlop in 1826 during a survey at the Parramatta Observatory in New South Wales, Australia. Dunlop made many other notable discoveries during his life, including several previously unknown star clusters and nebulae.

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1 A galaxy undergoing an unusually high rate of star formation. They are thought to be the result of a collision between two galaxies.