According to recent reports, a megamaser galaxy named IRAS 16399-0937 located more than 370 million light-years from Earth is around 100 million times brighter than the masers found in galaxies like the Milky Way. The entire galaxy acts as an astronomical laser that beams out microwave emission rather than visible light. A megamaser is a process that involved components within the galaxy, like gas, that is in the right physical condition to cause the amplification of light.
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image belies the galaxy’s energetic nature. The image consists of observations capture across various wavelengths by two of Hubble’s instruments: the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), and the Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS).NICMOS’s superb sensitivity, resolution, and field of view gave astronomers the unique opportunity to observe the structure of IRAS 16399-0937 in detail. They were able to discover that it hosts a double nucleus—the galaxy’s core is thought to be formed of two separate cores.
The two components for the northern and southern parts respectively, sit over 11,000 light-years apart. But they are both buried deep within the same swirl of cosmic gas and dust and are interacting, giving the galaxy its unique structure. It appears to be a starburst region, where stars are forming at an alarming rate.
This is a truly remarkable discovery.