Infinite Minute #7: M104, The Sombrero Galaxy Contains the Largest, Closest Black Hole

Uploaded by tdarnell on 23.11.2011

This is a spiral galaxy as seen from it's edge, known as Messier 104, also called the
Sombrero Galaxy it is one of the most dazzling in the sky.
Its' most striking feature is a lane of dust crossing in front, obscuring starlight behind
Compared to many galaxies the Hubble Space Telescope has imaged, M104 is very bright.
At magnitude 8, it lies just outside the reach of our naked eyes on a clear, dark night.
When viewed with the infrared detectors of the Spitzer Space Telescope, the dust ring
encircling the galaxy looks like a large disk, with starlight piercing through the dust.
From Spitzer, the dusty disk appears warped, probably due to a collision with another galaxy.
The Sombrero lies at the southern edge of the rich Virgo cluster of galaxies and is
one of the most massive objects in that group, equivalent to 800 billion suns. The galaxy
is 50,000 light-years across and is located 28 million light-years from Earth and it is
rushing away from us at over 1,000 kilometers per second.
Orbiting above and around M104 is a rich system of an estimated 2000 globular clusters, sometimes
called 'Diamonds on the Hat'. Our Milky Way has a halo of only about 160. The ages of
the clusters are similar to the clusters in the Milky Way, ranging from 10-13 billion
years old.
Embedded in the bright core of M104 is a smaller disk, which is tilted relative to the large
disk. X-ray emission suggests that there is material falling into the compact core, where
a 1-billion-solar-mass black hole resides, making this one of the most massive black
holes measured in any nearby galaxy.