Spectacular jets powered by the gravitational energy of a super massive black hole in the core of the elliptical galaxy Hercules A illustrate the combined imaging power of two of astronomy's cutting-edge tools, the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3, and the recently upgraded Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope in New Mexico.
Some two billion light-years away, the yellowish elliptical galaxy in the center of the image appears quite ordinary as seen by Hubble in visible wavelengths of light. The galaxy is roughly 1,000 times more massive than the Milky Way and harbors a 2.5-billion-solar-mass central black hole that is 1,000 times more massive than the black hole in the Milky Way. But the innocuous-looking galaxy, also known as 3C 348, has long been known as the brightest radio-emitting object in the constellation Hercules. Emitting nearly a billion times more power in radio wavelengths than our Sun, the galaxy is one of the brightest extragalactic radio sources in the entire sky.
The VLA radio data reveal enormous, optically invisible jets that, at one-and-a-half million light-years wide, dwarf the visible galaxy from which they emerge. The jets are very-high-energy plasma beams, subatomic particles and magnetic fields shot at nearly the speed of light from the vicinity of the black hole. The outer portions of both jets show unusual ring-like structures suggesting a history of multiple outbursts from the super massive black hole at the center of the galaxy.
The innermost parts of the jets are not visible because of the extreme velocity of the material, which causes relativistic effects that beam the light away from us. Far from the galaxy, the jets become unstable and break up into the rings and wisps.
The entire radio source is surrounded by a very hot, X-ray-emitting cloud of gas, not seen in this optical-radio composite.
Hubble's view of the field also shows a companion elliptical galaxy very close to the center of the optical-radio source, which may be merging with the central galaxy. Several other elliptical and spiral galaxies that are visible in the Hubble data may be members of a cluster of galaxies.Hercules A is by far the brightest and most massive galaxy in the cluster.
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center: http://www.nasa.gov/goddard
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
Earlier this week, NASA awarded two contracts for new spaceships to commercial companies. Here's how they compare.
Psychedelic pictures of 30 galactic collisions show for the first time that merging galaxies often spawn disc-shaped offspring like our Milky Way
India's first mission to Mars will attempt to put a spacecraft in orbit around the red planet next week, in a crucial test of a low-cost project carrying the country's hopes to join the leaders of a global space race.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' space company will develop a powerful new rocket engine in partnership with United Launch Alliance
After a journey of 442 million miles, unmanned spacecraft is closing in on Martian orbit
Late last week, an errant, high-energy particle struck part of the Dawn spacecraft‘s electrical system, disabling the NASA …
Is it possible to have a green thumb on the Red Planet? Perhaps, after you’ve mastered a few space gardening tricks
Delays in the launch of the first space flights by Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic from a base in New Mexico have drawn criticism from a county commissioner in the south of the state.
The U.S. Air Force plans to request initial funding for three surveillance satellites to track objects in space as part of its fiscal 2016 budget request, a top Air Force general said Tuesday.
By 2017, the two American companies are expected to take over a job that NASA has relied upon Russia to perform: shuttling astronauts to the International Space Station.