Images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope have presented the scientists with an entirely new phenomenon. Last week, NASA's Hubble Telescope posted an intriguing picture from a galaxy IC 5063 situated 156 million light-years away from Earth.
The image showed vast shadows stretching from the centre of the galaxy as though something is blocking the bright light from within.
It was similar to how bright beams from the Sun below the horizon and clouds or mountains only partially block its light, known as crepuscular rays.
Astronomers believe that the shadows from IC 5063 could be something very similar, but on a gigantic scale as the rays reach at least 36,000 light-years in each direction.
According to LiveScience, IC 5063 is a Seyfert galaxy, which means it has an active nucleus. The supermassive black hole at its centre is guzzling down material from a dense accretion disc and torus of dust and gas around it.
Even though the supermassive black hole gives off no light on its own, the intense forces involved in the massive accretion process generate large amounts of heat and light from the region around the black hole and that leads to galactic nucleus absolutely blazing across space. Astronomers believe that it is this bright light that is being shadowed most likely by dust.
Astronomer Peter Maksym of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said that they think they have found evidence that there is probably dust all over the galaxy scattering light from the accreting black hole in the faraway galaxy's active nucleus, and that the light can illuminate almost the whole galaxy.
The cause of dust, Maksym says could be because of the merger of this galaxy with another. Maksym also says that it is possible that the black hole jets are kicking up dust from near the nucleus.
Live Science reports the features were originally spotted in December last year by amateur space image processor Judy Schmidt, as she was reprocessing raw data from new Hubble Space Telescope observations into images obtained in 2018 and 2019.