Super-Supermassive Black Hole

by Fraser Cain on November 2, 2006

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The Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, and the National Radio Astronomical Observatory teamed up to produce this composite image of galaxy cluster MS0735.6+7421, located about 2.5 billion light-years from Earth. The cluster contains dozens of galaxies held together by gravity. A truly supermassive black hole lurks at the heart of this cluster, containing more than a billion solar masses. The red areas are twin jets of material streaming away from the black hole.

This is a composite image of galaxy cluster MS0735.6+7421, located about 2.6 billion light-years away in the constellation Camelopardus.

The image represents three views of the region that astronomers have combined into one photograph. The optical view of the galaxy cluster, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys in February 2006, shows dozens of galaxies bound together by gravity.

Diffuse, hot gas with a temperature of nearly 50 million degrees permeates the space between the galaxies. The gas emits X-rays, seen as blue in the image taken with the Chandra X-ray Observatory in November 2003. The X-ray portion of the image shows enormous holes or cavities in the gas, each roughly 640 light-years in diameter — nearly seven times the diameter of the Milky Way.

The cavities are filled with charged particles gyrating around magnetic field lines and emitting radio waves shown in the red portion of image taken with the Very Large Array telescope in New Mexico in June 1993. The cavities were created by jets of charged particles ejected at nearly light speed from a supermassive black hole weighing nearly a billion times the mass of our Sun lurking in the nucleus of the bright central galaxy.

The jets displaced more than one trillion solar masses worth of gas. The power required to displace the gas exceeded the power output of the Sun by nearly ten trillion times in the past 100 million years.

Original Source: Chandra News Release

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Fraser Cain is the publisher of Universe Today. He's also the co-host of Astronomy Cast with Dr. Pamela Gay.

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