Thursday, February 20, 2020

Inbox Astronomy: Beyond the Brim, Sombrero Galaxy's Halo Suggests a Turbulent Past


Beyond the Brim, Sombrero Galaxy's Halo Suggests a Turbulent Past

Release date: Feb 20, 2020 1:00 PM (EST)

Like a desperado in the Wild West, the broad "brim" of the Sombrero galaxy's disk may conceal a turbulent past. The Sombrero (M104) has never been a galaxy to fit the mold. It has an intriguing mix of shapes found in disk-shaped spiral galaxies, as well as football-shaped elliptical galaxies. The story of its structure becomes stranger with new evidence from the Hubble Space Telescope indicating the Sombrero is the result of major galaxy mergers, though its smooth disk shows no signs of recent disruption.

The galaxy's faint halo offers forensic clues. It's littered with innumerable stars that are rich in heavier elements (called metals), because they are later-generation stars. Such stars are usually only found in a galaxy's disk. They must have been tossed into the halo through mergers with mature, metal-rich galaxies in the distant past. The iconic galaxy now looks a bit more settled in its later years. It is now so isolated, there is nothing else around to feed on. This finding offers a new twist on how galaxies assemble themselves in our compulsive universe.

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