M61, one of the largest members of the Virgo cluster of galaxies, is well positioned for amateurs in the evening sky, a face-on spiral that features a hidden, 5-million solar-mass black hole in its luminous core. It was first observed in 1779 and remains a popular target for Earth- and space-based telescopes. This spectacular image combines data from the Hubble Space Telescope and the FORS camera on the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, revealing an unprecedented wealth of detail. Located more than 52 million light years from Earth, M61 is formally classified as an intermediate barred spiral. It’s also a prodigious starburst galaxy with brilliant ruby-red patches of recent star formation. Remarkably, eight supernovae have been spotted in M61 since the first was noted in 1926.
Relativity passes another test, this one beyond the Milky Way
How black hole jets break out of their galaxies
A computer simulation of the powerful jets generated by supermassive black holes at the centres of the largest galaxies explains why some burst forth as bright beacons visible across the universe, while others fall apart and never pierce the halo of the galaxy. A jet’s hot ionised gas is propelled by the twisting magnetic fields of the central rotating black hole.
Hubble captures an ancient cosmic cluster
Located some 22,000 light-years away in the southern constellation of Musca (The Fly), this tightly packed collection of stars — known as a globular cluster — goes by the name of NGC 4833. Globular clusters are thought to contain some of the oldest stars in our galaxy. This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows the dazzling stellar group in all its glory.