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Section 5

Beautiful, sparkling arms swirl outward from a bar slicing through this galaxy’s center in this image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope (@NASAHubble).

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It is classified as an active galaxy, which means that it hosts an active galactic nucleus – a compact region at a galaxy’s center where material is dragged towards a supermassive black hole. As this black hole devours the surrounding matter it emits intense radiation, causing it to shine brightly. But this galaxy is more exotic still. It essentially acts as a giant astronomical laser that also spews out light at microwave, not visible, wavelengths — this type of object is dubbed a megamaser (maser being the term for a microwave laser). Megamasers such as this can be some 100 million times brighter than masers found in galaxies like the Milky Way! Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA
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