Fornax – the furnace

June 25, 2017


The constellation Fornax is one those created by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in the mid 1700’s to commemorate the enlightenment’s greatest hits. It represents the little furnaces that chemists use in the laboratory to cook things you shouldn’t eat. I’m sure you can order one on Amazon or maybe talk to your local meth dealer.

One of the things I find interesting in that general direction of these stars is the Fornax Void. It’s a whole bunch of nothing. And I mean a major amount of nothing. The universe on the biggest scale is like a bubble bath where the surface of the bubbles is clusters of clusters of galaxies. In Fornax we see a huge area where stuff mostly isn’t.

Back to the stuff that is. The Fornax Dwarf galaxy is a community of mostly elderly stars that orbit the Milky Way at a safe distance. Some dwarf galaxies are being cannibalized by our own galaxy because in space the big ones eat the little ones. For instance, the Fornax galaxy itself appears to be munching on a few globular clusters. Some day the Milky Way might get around to swallowing the Fornax galaxy, perhaps after we run out of the snacks within easier reach.

NGC 1365NGC 1097NGC 1097 and NGC 1365 are both barred spiral galaxies in Fornax. Both are considered Seyfert galaxies which means they are showing signs in their cores of some sort of supermassive blackhole gastroesophageal reflux disease, i.e. cosmic heartburn.

Galaxies eat everything they can but it’s not always good for them. A lot of middle-aged galaxies have cores that are unusually bright as though the supermassive blackholes in their centers have been swallowing stars in unhealthy quantities. It’s not as bad as quasars though, which are when younger galaxies are pigging out like some county fair eating contest. Seyferts aren’t that bad but it’s still pretty gross.

UDFj-39546284 is in Fornax and it is a classic example of a proto-galaxy, a galaxy wannabee. It’s the sort of thing we find in the crap-strewn pre-galactic era of the early universe. Back then gravity was still trying to assemble galaxies from the bits and pieces and parts, without the benefit of properly translated instructions. There always seems to be a few parts left over but everything works anyway so what the hell.

Carpe Noctem

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