Image of the Day: Swirling supermassive black hole eruption

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Jan 28, 2016, 2:42 PM EST (Updated)

Black holes are temperamental areas of violent activities that scientists are just now beginning to understand.  Here's an amazing image captured by astronomers working with  NASA’s orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory, revealing a nearby supermassive black hole belching out an impolite blast of X-ray emissions from within the galaxy NGC 5195. This swirling companion galaxy is merging with a larger spiral galaxy NGC 5194, appropriately named “The Whirlpool,” and located in the Messier 51 galaxy system, 26 million light-years from Earth.

“For an analogy, astronomers often refer to black holes as 'eating' stars and gas.  Apparently, black holes can also burp after their meal,” explained Eric Schlegel of The University of Texas in San Antonio, who led the study. “Our observation is important because this behavior would likely happen very often in the early universe, altering the evolution of galaxies. It is common for big black holes to expel gas outward, but rare to have such a close, resolved view of these events.”

The results of this study were presented this month at the 227th meeting of the American Astronomical Society meeting in Kissimmee, Fla., and have been submitted as a formal paper to The Astrophysical Journal.  

Have a look and forgive this big black hole its bad table manners.


“We think these arcs represent fossils from two enormous blasts when the black hole expelled material outward into the galaxy,” said co-author Christine Jones of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in Cambridge, Mass. “This activity is likely to have had a big effect on the galactic landscape.”

(Via Wired)

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