21May2013

Black Hole Jets Encounter Galaxy.

Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/A.Siemiginowska et al; Optical: NASA/STScI; Radio: NSF/NRAO/VLA

A compelling new image? You bet. Our knowledge of black holes, their emissions and effect on their local surroundings is increasing all the time. The mystery is slowly showing itself.

Filled with X-ray data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory (blue), optical light obtained with the Hubble Space Telescope (gold) and radio waves from the NSF’s Very Large Array (pink), we’re looking a power so intense we can’t even grasp its concept. This combined information reveals the incredible gravity of a supermassive black hole… one shooting off two jets of material and thought to be about 100 million times more massive than our Sun! 

It’s catalog number is 4C+29.30 – a galaxy located some 850 million light years from Earth. While it doesn’t appear galaxy-like in the multi-wavelength view, this stunning new image is a portrait of the radio emissions which come from the jet activity. These intense forces are born in the center of the galaxy where the supermassive black hole lurks and the particle streams blow outward at speeds of millions of miles per hour. Where they appear to end is the outer boundaries of the galaxy and they show up as broad fields of radio emissions.

Top: artist's conception of a supermassive bla...

Artist’s conception of a supermassive black hole drawing material from a nearby star in galaxy RXJ 1242-11. Left: X-ray image, Right: optical image. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The image also includes x-ray data, enriching what we see. This information reveals the location of the hot gases. Look to the centre. The bright markings are where the million-degree gases collect around the black hole itself. It swims around the event horizon and one day may be pulled into oblivion – but not before it becomes magnetized. The captive gases will swirl around and, in turn, will also cause more radio jet activity.

As brilliant as this image is, there is still information hiding. The low-energy x-rays located near the black hole are absorbed by the dust and gas. Even though we can’t see this torus, astronomers know it’s there – obscuring the optical light – and causing a hidden or buried black hole. What optical light appears in the galaxy is the product of its stars.

What are the bright spots along the edges? That’s radio and x-ray emissions caused by extremely high energy electrons following curved paths around magnetic field lines. They reveal where the black hole jet activity has encountered clumps of material in the galaxy.

As the jets slam into these galactic “dust bunnies” it heats them up and uses a huge portion of the energy expended by the jets. Energy is further drained by the jets dragging cool gas along its path.

Both of these activities, heat and drag, can put a black hole on a diet. This will lead to temporary starvation and the black hole will cease to grow. According to the researchers, this “feedback process is thought to cause the observed correlation between the mass of the supermassive black hole and the combined mass of the stars in the central region or bulge of a galaxy.”

Original Story Source: Chandra News Release. Submitted by Tammy Plotner for “Dave Reneke’s World of Space and Astronomy News.

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