Chandra Image of Sgr A*
Credit: NASA/CXC/MIT/F.K. Baganoff et al.

Deep in the Heart of the Milky Way

Compared to so-called "active" galaxies, the Milky Way seems rather boring, since the Milky Way does not possess the large-scale, high energy "jets" or bright central nuclei of these galaxies. In active galaxies, matter being swallowed by supermassive black holes at the galaxy's center produce the bright nuclei and powerful jets. While the Milky Way is believed to possess its own, supermassive black hole, our central black hole is "inactive", probably because there's little amount of matter in the central part of the galaxy left to feed it. The location of the Milky Way's central black hole is not precisely known, but is believed to be very near a strange object called Sagitarrius A* (or Sgr A*). The Chandra X-ray Observatory has now obtained the most sensitive X-ray picture of the region near Sgr A* in hopes of revealing the location of the central black hole via the X-radiation it emits. The Chandra close-up image of the Galactic center, shown above, shows that a bright X-ray source exists at the location of Sgr A*. The Chandra image also reveals the presences of a weak X-ray jet from Sgr A*, about 1.5 light years in length, produced by high-energy particles ejected from the vicinity of the black hole.

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified January 13, 2003