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.
Kepler-186f is almost the same size as Earth, and it orbits in its star's "Goldilocks zone"-- where temperatures may be just right for life. But much is unknown because it's also 500 light-years away.
Scientists say they have discovered what could be the birth of a new moon in the rings of Saturn.
A crucible of bright stars illuminates a nebula in glowing red hydrogen that would normally be too faint for the human eye to see
As part of its next cargo delivery run, commercial spaceflight's darling will try out rocket legs that may help lower spacecraft costs by a factor of 100
A NASA mission to pluck samples from a distant asteroid and return them to Earth passed a major technical review, clearing engineers to begin building the robotic spacecraft, officials said on Thursday.
Aerospace giant Boeing is designing a new type of aircraft capable of taking off, hovering and landing vertically
Photos snapped by the Mars rover Curiosity appear to show strange lights.
SpaceIL, a nonprofit organization aiming to land the first Israeli spacecraft on the moon, said on Wednesday it has received a $16.4 million grant from the foundation of U.S. casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.
Russian Progress spacecraft brings needed supplies and equipment to crew of the ISS
Europa and Enceladus both appear to spout jets of water and have buried oceans, making them attractive targets for future probes that will seek signs of life