Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
2012 December 5
Explanation: Why does this galaxy emit such spectacular jets? No one is sure, but it is likely related to an active supermassive black hole at its centre. The galaxy at the image centre, Hercules A, appears to be a relatively normal elliptical galaxy in visible light. When imaged in radio waves, however, tremendous plasma jets over one million light years long appear. Detailed analyses indicate that the central galaxy, also known as 3C 348, is actually over 1,000 times more massive than our Milky Way Galaxy, and the central black hole is nearly 1,000 times more massive than the black hole at our Milky Way's centre. Pictured above is a visible light image obtained by the Earth-orbiting Hubble Space Telescope superposed with a radio image taken by the recently upgraded Very Large Array (VLA) of radio telescopes in New Mexico, USA. The physics that creates the jets remains a topic of research with a likely energy source being infalling matter swirling toward the central black hole.
Authors & editors:
Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
NASA Official: Phillip Newman Specific rights apply.
A service of: ASD at NASA / GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.