in the constellation Leo
75 million light-years
210 million times the mass of the Sun
Diameter slightly less than the size of the orbit of Jupiter
At first glance, NGC 3608 is an unremarkable galaxy. It is an elliptical galaxy, so it looks like a faint, fuzzy football with no discernible features other than its bright core. Yet evidence suggests the galaxy has undergone a fairly recent encounter with a neighboring galaxy, NGC 3607. The encounter has stirred up the galaxy's core, which is rotating in the opposite direction from the stars around it.
The core appears to harbor a supermassive black hole. Measurements of the orbital speeds of stars reveal that the stars are being pulled by a large, dark mass at the center of NGC 3608. Early studies suggested a mass of about 100 million times the mass of the Sun, but subsequent studies have increased the mass. A study in 2011, for example, found a range of 140 million to 320 million times the mass of the Sun, with a most likely number of 210 solar masses.
The galaxy is "radio quiet," however, suggesting that the black hole itself is quiet. If an accretion disk encircles the black hole it may be fairly small and thin, and it is not producing the "jets" of charged particles seen shooting from near many supermassive black holes.
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This document was last modified: April 30, 2012.