What is a Seyfert galaxy?

Are Seyfert galaxies just like normal galaxies?

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NGC 7742 is a classic example of a type II Seyfert galaxy with its bright core and tightly wound spiral arms

NGC 7742 is a classic example of a type II Seyfert galaxy with its bright core and tightly wound spiral arms

Asked by John Cope

Powered by a black hole munching on material at the centre of their galactic structure, Seyfert galaxies are highly energetic and have bright compact cores, which spit out lots of strong infrared emission. They come in two types – type I and type II, with the former possessing faster-moving hot gas than the latter.

Seyfert galaxies are intensely studied since they are thought to be powered in the same way as the more luminous and faraway quasars – being much closer means that we can try to get a better understanding of both quasars and Seyferts at the same time. Seen in visible light, both Seyfert galaxies look very much like normal spiral galaxies. While under other wavelengths, their core luminosity is of comparable light intensity to the whole Milky Way.

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