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Messier 106 (NGC 4258): Spiral Galaxy in Canes Venatici

Distance: 24 million light years

Constellation: Venatici

M106 has the distinction of harboring the nearest extragalactic astrophysical jet.

The proximity of M106 and its incline of about 72 degrees expose the central region of the galaxy’s barred core to earthbound telescopes giving astronomers the opportunity to learn about “jet” phenomenon in great detail. Jets are highly collimated beams of matter and energy associated with the cores of active galaxies. They are best observed at radio wavelengths and usually come in pairs aimed in opposite directions. M106 is a type of active galaxy classified as a seyfert galaxy by virtue of its active nucleus and characteristic emission spectra.

Like other seyfert galaxies it shows evidence of a massive black hole (about 36 million solar masses) within its nucleus. Surrounding the black hole is a disk of spiraling matter called an accretion disk. The physics of the accretion disk is such that material falling into the black hole releases copious amounts of energy sometimes in the form of powerful jets. The two sided radiojet of M106 exits the core traveling in opposite directions and extends through the galactic disk for about 16,000 light years before it deflects into the halo of the galaxy. — Robert Gendler

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