(ORDO NEWS) — Spiral galaxy M91 fills the frame in this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope Wide Field Camera image.
M91 is located about 55 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Coma Berenices and, as seen in this image, is a barred spiral galaxy. While the M91 galaxy itself creates an impressive galactic portrait, it also hides an astronomical monster.
Like our galaxy, M91 contains a supermassive black hole at its center. A 2009 study using archival Hubble data showed that the central black hole weighs 9.6-38 million suns.
While archived Hubble data allowed astronomers to weigh M91’s central black hole, more recent observations had other scientific goals.
The observation is part of an effort to build a treasure trove of astronomical data that studies the connections between young stars and the cold gas clouds in which they form.
To do this, astronomers used Hubble to obtain ultraviolet and visible observations of galaxies that were already visible on radio waves using the ground-based Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array.
Hubble observation time is a very valuable and sought-after resource for astronomers. To obtain data from a telescope, astronomers must first write a proposal detailing what they want to observe and emphasizing the scientific importance of their observations.
These proposals are then anonymized and judged on their scientific merit by various astronomical experts. The process is incredibly competitive: In the last Hubble competition, only about 13% of the submissions received observation time.
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