3C 31 (Galaxy NGC 383)

Location:  Constellation Pisces
Coordinates:  01 07 24.959 +32 24 45.214
Accepted distance: 209,000,000 ly

Mainstream description
In optical wavelengths it appears as one of several lenticular galaxies in a chain designated Arp 331 in Halton Arp’s Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies.  Radio observations reveal two enormous jets of electrons traveling at relativistic speeds in opposite directions away from a supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy.  These jets appear to gradually dissipate into massive plumes hundreds of thousands of light years from the galaxy.

Alternative description
This galaxy and the others along the chain in Arp 331 are the end result of Z-pinches along a string of intertwined galactic-scale plasma filaments.  These Z-pinches (originally known as Bennett pinches) are themselves the result of powerful magnetic fields that are formed around points where the plasma filaments intertwine.  The pinches compress the filaments causing fusion to occur resulting in the release of tremendous amounts of energy and the formation of stars and galaxies along the string.  The central galaxy NGC 383 is the site of a still active Z-pinch which is why it is ejecting jets of hot plasma that emit synchrotron radiation in the form of both radio waves and X-rays.  These jets extend roughly along the same line as the other galaxies in the chain indicating the approximate path of the intertwined plasma filaments.  The center of the galaxy is surrounded by a small disk of material visible in optical wavelengths.  This disk was formed from matter that coalesced through Marklund convection in the space surrounding the Z-pinch.

3C 31 (Galaxy NGC 383)Shannon Sims