Don’t peek at the answer until you’ve given this a good try! Then, scroll down a bit and the truth will be revealed to you.
Credit: NASA, ESA and A. Schaller (for STScI)
What in the world is it?
A close up of fizzing Alka Seltzer? Quicksilver in space? Well, the artwork you see here is an imagined view of a mysterious disk of young, blue stars whipping around a supermassive black hole at the core of the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) — the nearest galaxy outside of our own Milky Way system. You can just barely see the black hole and its environs at the center of the blue disk. What about the yellowish brown stars? They’re typical of the older, and therefore redder, stars that populate the ancient cores of most galaxies, including our own!
The artwork is based on special observations made with the Hubble Space Telescope, which revealed more than 400 stars forming in a burst of activity about 200 million years ago near the core of the Andromeda Galaxy. These hot, young stars are tightly packed in a disk that is only a light-year across. Under the black hole’s gravitational intense hold, the stars are traveling very fast — an awesome 2.2 million miles an hour (3.6 million kilometers an hour, or 1,000 kilometers a second). That’s fast!