Two views of galaxy NGC 1266

The galaxy NGC 1266 is unremarkable when observed in optical light (left), but becomes alive and violent when viewed in other wavelengths. At the very center (right), within 100 light years of the few million solar mass black hole, molecular gas, the building block of all stars, is squashed to concentrations 100 times greater than the densest molecular clouds in the Milky Way (yellow). The gas is also being expelled as two outflowing lobes, traveling at speeds up to 400 kilometers per second in opposite directions (red and blue contours). Along the way, the gas excites a red spectral line of hydrogen (H-alpha), seen only where there is ionized hydrogen (right, grayscale). Click to view larger graphic. (Katherine Alatalos/UC Berkeley)