Chandra image of jet from Cen A
Credit: NASA/CXC/CfA/R.Kraft et al.

Sparks after the Collision

One of the most mysterious and beautiful galaxies is Centaurus A. Cen A was discovered August 4, 1826 by James Dunlop at the Parramatta observatory in Australia. However, it first came to prominence due to its strong radio emission, discovered in the middle of the twentieth century. This galaxy, a hybrid like the creatures that gave name to its constellation, is cut in two by thick lanes of dust. It turns out that Cen A has swallowed up a spiral galaxy, and harbors a supermassive black hole to boot. This black hole is feeding noisily and messily, spewing out a jet of X-ray emitting material for thousands of lightyears. The image above shows a Chandra X-ray Observatory picture of the jet from the black hole, showing exquisite detail, like the apparent X-ray bow shock at the end of the southern jet towards the bottom of the image. Cen A is an object that's interesting to a wide swath of astronomers, who've obtained spectacular images of this object over nearly all the electromagnetic spectrum.
Published: February 16, 2009

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Friday, 20-Apr-2012 15:11:20 EDT