Podcaster: Richard Drumm
Title: UNAWE Space Scoop – This Spanish Dancer Twirls in a Cosmic Ballet
Organization: 365 Days Of Astronomy
Description: Space scoop, news for children.
Astronomers have captured a spectacular image of the magnificent galaxy NGC 1566. It’s nicknamed the “Spanish Dancer”, and you’ll want to go to https://noirlab.edu/public/news/noirlab2208/ and have a look for yourself. It’s a grand-design spiral galaxy with two arms winding around the galaxy’s core just like a dancer with her arms wide open, twirling on a dance floor.
A dance floor with all the grandeur of the cosmos.
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This is the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast. Today we bring you a new episode in our Space Scoop series. This show is produced in collaboration with Universe Awareness, a program that strives to inspire every child with our wonderful cosmos.
Today’s story is…
This Spanish Dancer Twirls in a Cosmic Ballet
Astronomers have captured a spectacular image of the magnificent galaxy NGC 1566.
It’s nicknamed the “Spanish Dancer”, but if you Google the term, you’ll find it refers to a nudibranch or sea slug. Basically a mollusk with no shell. Yeah.
There’s also a song by Steve Winwood, but the term actually originates with flamenco dancers from Spain.
It probably got applied to the nudibranchs because some of them have red frills on their edges, like the dresses worn by women flamenco dancers.
But this one today, though, is a grand-design spiral galaxy with two arms winding around the galaxy’s core like a dancer with her arms wide open, twirling on a dance floor.
A dance floor with all the grandeur of the cosmos.
You’ll want to go to https://noirlab.edu/public/news/noirlab2208/ and have a look for yourself. There’s also a link in the show notes.
It’s a beaut, Clark!
Astronomers were using the Dark Energy Camera, the DECam, on the Victor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope at CTIO, the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.
They were able to look into the center of this spiral galaxy, located in the constellation Dorado, some 70 million light-years away from Earth.
This constellation is named after the Dorado or dolphinfish.
Now, you’ll notice that the word “fish” that has been recently tacked onto the end of “dolphin” there for extra clarity.
That’s because this isn’t the cetacean that’s also called the dolphin. That one’s a mammal, the Dorado is a delicious fish.
If you go to Hawaii you’ll find this delicacy served as mahi mahi.
And a porpoise isn’t a dolphin either. I went down a long rabbit hole that cleared up that misconception but quick!
Dolphins have conical teeth and porpoises have flattened or spatulate teeth.
Dolphins usually have a pronounced beak or rostrum while porpoises have blunt faces.
Dolphins have a dorsal fin that looks like the curved fin on a surfboard. Porpoises dorsal fins are more triangular and shorter.
“Dorado” is spanish for “golden”, and the dorado does have golden sides, and a yellow belly.
There are saltwater and freshwater species.
There’s a pretty little constellation in the summer skies called Delphinus.
Wait. I’m supposed to be talking about astronomy, not delicious fish and cetaceans!
How’d I get there?
Ah yes! The constellation Dorado in the southern skies and it’s Spanish Dancer galaxy NGC 1566!
It is the brightest galaxy in a collection of around 45 other galaxies called the Dorado Group.
Galaxy groups are collections of fewer than 50 galaxies, held quite loosely together by the gravitational strength they exert on each other.
Astronomers wanting to better understand galaxy groups, stars of different ages and black holes located in galaxies, often study the Spanish Dancer.
The ‘Dancer’ is filled with stars in all stages of their life cycle and has a supermassive black hole right at its heart, so it’s an ideal object to study how stars age.
And being a face-on galaxy, it’s laid out flat before us, making it an easy galaxy to study.
In the image, we see a bright blue color at the outer tips of the galaxy’s arms.
The blue color comes from massive, young, very bright stars.
We can also see darker spots inside the arms – these are dust lanes much like we have here in the Milky Way.
NGC 1566’s arms are rich in gas and, because of that, they’re great star nurseries.
Almost at the center of the galaxy, we can see older, cooler stars and large amounts of dust, in a reddish, almost golden color.
The picture was taken for the Dark Energy Survey, a research project that’s mapping millions of galaxies to discover what dark energy, the ingredient that makes up most of the Universe, really is.
The task is quite complex and the project is huge: it involves over 400 scientists in 26 institutions in seven different countries!
But thankfully those scientists are all located on one planet. Whew!
Hey, here’s a cool fact:
The Spanish Dancer has been the stage for a spectacular event!
It’s where we saw a star turn into a supernova, called SN2010el, at the end of its life, back in 2010.
Also, the JWST, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will be looking at the Dancer and 18 other nearby galaxies with infrared light!
We’ll bring you updates when they come in!
End of podcast:
365 Days of Astronomy
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