D. Heilman Astrophotography


An intermediate spiral galaxy, M106 is found in the constellation of Canes Venatici and was discovered in 1781 by Pierre Méchain (added to Messier's catalog posthumously).  At 24 million light years distant, M106 displays a warm yellow core characteristic of many older stars and the blue light of young, hot stars in the spiral arms.  Narrowband data blended with the image reveals red hydrogen streamers emanating up and away from the galactic plane due to the action of a 30 million solar mass supermassive black hole at the core of the galaxy.  This  black hole happens to be swallowing tremendous amounts of matter from its surroundings generating an active galactic nucleus (AGN).  Jets of x-ray radiation spew from its poles, which in this case are tilted at an angle of ~30 degrees from the galactic plane.  These jets plow through gases in the inner galaxy, pushing them out and away while ionizing the gases in streams that are tens of thousands of light years long.  As if this wasn’t enough, the dense presence of water in the inner galaxy along with action of the AGN has produced a galactic water vapor megamaser - a galaxy scale water based microwave laser (maser) induced by the churning and subsequent amplified emission of photons from water molecules in all directions - a super-luminous engine of the universe.