NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory Views Blast from Material Falling into Supermassive Black Hole at Center of Galaxy Pictor A

Powerful beams of radiation continually shooting across 300,000 light-years of spacetime

This new composite image of the beam of particles was obtained by combining X-ray data (blue) from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory at various times over a fifteen year period and radio data from the Australian Telescope Compact Array (Red). Astronomers gain understanding and knowledge of the true nature of these amazing jets by studying and analyzing details of the structure of X-ray and radio data obtained.
Image credit: NASA/JPL/Chandra

Image caption: This new composite image of the beam of particles was obtained by combining X-ray data (blue) from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory at various times over a fifteen year period and radio data from the Australian Telescope Compact Array (Red). Astronomers gain understanding and knowledge of the true nature of these amazing jets by studying and analyzing details of the structure of X-ray and radio data obtained. Image credit: NASA/JPL/Chandra

Space news (February 25, 2016) – 500 million light-years away in the constellation Pictor –

The stunning Chandra X-ray image of radio galaxy Pictor A seen here shows an amazing jet that reminds one of the death rays from Star Wars emanating from a black hole in the center of the galaxy. The “Death Star” as portrayed in the Star Wars movie Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope was capable of totally destroying a planet using powerful beams of radiation. In just the same any planet finding itself in the direct path of the 300,000 light-years long, continuous jet emanating from the supermassive black hole in the center of a galaxy is toast.

Astronomers think the stunning jet observed is produced by huge amounts of gravitational energy released as material swirls toward the pointofnoreturn in the gravity well of the supermassive black hole at its center the event horizon. These jets are an enormous beam of particles traveling at nearly the speed of light into the vastness of intergalactic space scientists call relativistic jets. 

Astronomers also report additional data confirming the existence of another jet pointing in the opposite direction to the jet seen in this image that they call a counter jet. Data had previously pointed to the existence of a counter jet and the latest Chandra data obtained confirmed this. Unfortunately, due to the motion of this opposite jet away from the line-of-sight to Earth, it’s very faint and hard for even Chandra to observe. 

Image caption: The labeled image seen here shows the location of the supermassive black hole and both jet and counter jet. The radio lobe label is where the jet pushes into surrounding gas and hotspot produced by shock waves near the tip of the jet. Image credit: NASA/JPL?ESA
The labeled image seen here shows the location of the supermassive black hole and both jet and counter-jet. The radio lobe label is where the jet pushes into surrounding gas and hotspot produced by shock waves near the tip of the jet.
Image credit: NASA/JPL?ESA

Current theories and computer simulations indicate the continuous X-ray emissions observed by Chandra could be produced by electrons spiraling around magnetic field lines in a process astronomers call synchrotron emission. They’re still trying to figure out how electrons could be continuously accelerated as they travel the length of the jet. But plan additional observations in the future to obtain more data to help develop new theories and computer simulations to explain this. 

Watch this YouTube video on Pictor A.

We’ll update you on any new developments and theories on jets emanating from supermassive black holes at the center of nearby galaxies as they’re developed.

You can learn more about jets emanating from supermassive black holes here.

Follow the journey of the Chandra X-ray Observatory here.

Learn more about relativistic jets here.

Read about astronomers recent discovery that superstar binaries like Eta Carinae are more common than first thought.

Read about the Nebra Sky Disk, a 3,600-year-old bronze disk, archaeoastronomers believe is the oldest known astronomical clock ever discovered.

Read and observe the hydrocarbon dunes of Saturn’s moon Titan.

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