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.
Scientists in Germany have pieced together a stunning mosaic image of the Martian surface.
Understanding how life got started here on planet Earth may mean searching for its counterparts "out there"
A NASA spacecraft dispatched 15 years ago to collect samples from a comet also snared what scientists suspect are the first dust specks from interstellar space.
Fast-spinning small asteroids hold together using the same, weak forces that make flour clumpy. This could make it difficult to protect Earth from them
Though skies were cloudy, conditions were good as the rocket carrying DigitalGlobe's WorldView 3 remote sensing satellite made its way into space. The satellite is the most powerful Earth-imaging spacecraft ever built for the commercial market.
A European resupply line to the International Space Station closed on Tuesday with the arrival of a fifth and final freighter to the orbital outpost.
The two pixelated blobs above are dwarf planet Pluto and its largest moon, Charon.
The most comprehensive astronaut sleep study to date found that astronauts' sleep debt starts well before blast off, and sleeping pills might not help
Jupiter's moon Io is more volcanically active than once thought
European Space Agency probe brought to within 100km of comet travelling at 55,000km per hour, where it will begin analysis Continue reading...