Image of the Day: A Massive Jet of Color from a Black Hole 100,000 Light Years Long

3c273_jet
 

A new image from NASA's Hubble, Chandra and Spitzer space telescopes shows a giant jet of particles that has been shot out from the vicinity of a type of supermassive black hole called a quasar. The jet is enormous, stretching across more than 100,000 light-years of space – a size comparable to the entire Milky Way galaxy.

The jet pictured here is streaming out from the first known quasar, called 3C273, discovered in 1963. A kaleidoscope of colors represents the jet's assorted light waves. X-rays, the highest-energy light in the image, are shown at the far left in blue (the black hole itself is well to the left of the image). Quasars are among the brightest objects in the universe. They consist of supermassive black holes surrounded by turbulent material, which is being heated up as it is dragged toward the black hole. This hot material glows brilliantly, and some of it gets blown off into space in the form of powerful jets.

Astronomers were able to use these data to solve the mystery of how light is produced is quasar jets -the result of charged particles spiraling through a magnetic field, a process known as synchrotron radiation.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Yale Univ

error

"The Galaxy" in Your Inbox, Free, Daily