There are some interesting dynamics going on with Centaurus A, an elliptical galaxy about 13 million light-years away. This is a very active and luminous region of space and a great disturbance is going on as another spiral galaxy is trying to get in on the action by merging with Centaurus A. But astronomers now have new insight on what causing all the ruckus: a supermassive black hole at the core of Centaurus A. Jets and lobes emanating from the central black hole have been imaged at submillimeter wavelengths for the first time by using the 12-meter Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) telescope in Chile. By using a combination of visible and X-ray wavelengths, astronomers were able to produce this striking new image. Help me APEX, you are our only hope!
Centaurus A (NGC 5128) is one of our closest galactic neighbors, and is located in the southern constellation of Centaurus. The supermassive black hole is the source of the force: strong radio and X-ray emissions. Visible in the image is a dust ring encircling the giant galaxy, and the fast-moving radio jets ejected from the galaxy center. In submillimeter light, the heat glow from the central dust disc can be seen and also the emission from the central radio source.
APEX was also able to discern – for the first time in the submillimeter – the inner radio lobes north and south of the disc. Measurements of this emission, which occurs when fast-moving electrons spiral around the lines of a magnetic field, reveal that the material in the jet is travelling at approximately half the speed of light. In the X-ray emission, we see the jets emerging from the centre of Centaurus A and, to the lower right of the galaxy, the glow where the expanding lobe collides with the surrounding gas, creating a shockwave.