M104: The Sombrero Galaxy
The Sombrero Galaxy (NGC 4594) is an unbarred spiral galaxy in the constellation Virgo located 28 million light years from earth. It has a bright nucleus, an unusually large central bulge, and a prominent dust lane in its inclined disk. The dark dust lane and the bulge give this galaxy the appearance of a sombrero. The galaxy has an apparent magnitude of +9.0, making it easily visible with amateur telescopes. The large bulge, the central supermassive black hole, and the dust lane all attract the attention of professional astronomers.
This galaxy’s most striking feature is the dust lane that crosses in front of the bulge of the galaxy. This dust lane is actually a symmetric ring that encloses the bulge of the galaxy. Most of the cold atomic hydrogen gas and the dust lies within this ring. The ring might also contain most of the Sombrero Galaxy’s cold molecular gas,although this is an inference based on observations with low resolution and weak detections. Additional observations are needed to confirm that the Sombrero galaxy’s molecular gas is constrained to the ring. Based on infrared spectroscopy, the dust ring is the primary site of star formation within this galaxy.
Image is composed from images taken by both Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes.