Image of the Month - November 2018
Congratulations to James from St George's School for winning our Image of the Month for November!
A lovely 3-colour process of the spiral galaxy Messier 74 (or NGC 628). M74 was discovered in 1780 by French astronomer Pierre Méchain and is home to approximately 100 billion stars (the galaxy's discovery was told to Charles Messier, who then included it in his catalog of celestial objects). It lies at around 32 million light-years away from Earth and, despite having an almost perfect face-on appearance, it is the hardest Messier object to spot for amateur astronomers because of its low surface brightness; if you're lucky, you'll be able to catch it as a faint patch of light with binoculars on a very clear night at this time of year!
In the center of M74 also resides an intermediate-mass black hole; detected as an ultraluminous X-ray source by the Chandra X-ray Observatory in March 2005. Black holes harness a lot of energy from the matter that they pull in gravitationally; the magnetic fields are so strong that combined with the gravitational pull they fire out jets of high-energy particles at the poles (X-rays are very high-energy photons) and they were afterwards detected all the way out by Earth.