If you’re looking to learn a little more about Centaurus A, then you’re in the right place. This large galaxy is one of the most intriguing in the night sky. As it is one of the brightest galaxies up there, it is often a great place to start if you’re just getting interested in astronomy. Let’s get started and have a look at some facts about the galaxy Centaurus A.
Centaurus A Galaxy Facts
- Centaurus A has a radius of approximately 48,500 light years. This means that it’s a similar size to our galaxy, the Milky Way, and around 50% larger than the first galaxy to be determined as spiral, the Whirlpool galaxy.
- Centaurus A is situated around 13 million light years away from our planet Earth.
- As you may have guessed, the galaxy gets its named because it is located in the Centaurus constellation. It is located just North of the star Omega Centauri.
- It was discovered by Scottish astronomer James Dunlop. Of course, Dunlop was living in Australia when he discovered the galaxy, as it is best seen from the Southern hemisphere.
- In terms of brightness, it is actually the fifth brightest galaxy in our night sky.
- This galaxy doesn’t quite fit into the Hubble sequence we use. Astronomers argue that it is either an elliptical galaxy, or a lenticular galaxy (which is a cross between elliptical and spiral).
- It makes up the largest galaxy in the Centaurus A/M83 Group, which is a group of galaxies that are all within the constellations Hydra, Virgo and Centaurus.
- It is also part of the Virgo Supercluster, which includes hundreds of galaxies from the Local Group and the Virgo Cluster.
- At the center of Centaurus A is a supermassive black hole. This black hole has a mass of around 55 million solar masses. This black hole causes twisted shapes in the galaxy.
- Centaurus A is a large galaxy, and is likely the result of several other galaxies colliding together and merging into one.
Centaurus A Galaxy Questions
What type of galaxy is Centaurus A?
The majority of astronomers consider Centaurus A to be a lenticular galaxy. However, there are some that would say that it is an elliptical or even a giant elliptical galaxy due to its size. However, it is probably somewhere between elliptical and spiral, which means that by definition, it is a lenticular galaxy.
How big is Centaurus A compared to the Milky Way?
Centaurus A is known for being one of the biggest galaxies in it’s region. It is a very similar size to our own Milky Way galaxy, being about 10% smaller in diameter.
How old is Centaurus A?
We think that Centaurus A is around half a billion years younger than our universe, forming in its early stages. This means that Centaurus A is probably around 13.3 billion years old.
Why is Centaurus A referred to as NGC 5128?
You might see Centaurus A being referred to as NGC 5128. If you’re not sure why, then let me explain; NGC simply stands for New General Catalog. This is a catalog that was created in 1888 by John Dreyer, and it has almost 8000 different astronomical objects in it, with Centaurus A being number 5128.
Does Centaurus A have any satellites?
Like many other galaxies, Centaurus A does have some satellite galaxies that orbit it – astronomers currently have 16 official satellite galaxies of Centaurus A.
Centaurus A is one of the biggest galaxies within it’s area. Although it is very difficult to see it with the naked eye, there are those that claim to have seen it (however I have only been able to see it through a telescope). So, it could be worth you getting a cheap telescope and using that if you want to be able to view Centaurus A clearly.