Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 4394

One of the most common types of island universes viewed during our journey

Space news (The Hubble Tuning Fork: barred spiral galaxies) – 55 million light-years from Earth toward the constellation of Coma Berenices (Berenice’s Hair) –

Hubble spies NGC 4394
These arms are peppered with young blue stars, dark filaments of cosmic dust, and bright, fuzzy regions of active star formation. At the centre of NGC 4394 lies a region of ionised gas known as a LINER. LINERs are active regions that display a characteristic set of emission lines in their spectra

First documented in the western world by German-British astronomer William Herschel, barred spiral galaxy NGC 4394 is a member of the most common type of galaxy viewed in the Galaxy Zoo. Estimated by astronomers to be 55 million light-years from Sol, toward the constellation of Coma Berenices, this island universe is considered a member of the Virgo Cluster. 

The prototypical barred spiral galaxy, NGC 4394 has bright spiral arms sprouting from the ends of a bar cutting through its middle bulge. Sprinkled with blue, young stars its spiral arms contain fuzzy regions where stars are being formed and dark filaments of cosmic dust. Near the center of this island universe lies a region of ionized gas known as a low-ionization nuclear emission-line region (LINER). An active region displaying a specific set of emission lines in its spectra, a LINER contains mainly weakly ionized atoms of oxygen, nitrogen, and sulfur.

LINERS have been viewed relatively often during the human journey to the beginning of space and time and they’re starting to piece together their puzzle. Astronomers still need to figure out where the energy comes from to ionize the gas. Presently astronomers believe it could be due to the influence of the supermassive black hole or extreme levels of star formation. In the case of NGC 4394, gas from a nearby galaxy has likely flowed into its central region, providing a new source to fuel the process, either way.

You can learn more about galaxies with a LINER here.

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