3C223 X-ray image and radio contours
Credit: XMM: J.H. Croston (University of Bristol, UK) et al., and ESA; VLA: Leahy & Perley (1991)

Energizing the Base

The cosmic microwave background forms a base of emission permeating the Universe. But these normally low-energy cosmic background photons can change their energies as they traverse space. Using the XMM-Newton X-ray telescope, and radio observations from the Very Large Array, astronomers have imaged X-ray and radio emission from galaxy-scale jets emanating from an active galaxy known as 3C 223. Active galaxies like 3C 223 are believed to harbor supermassive black holes which somehow produced very energetic jets of material blasting into intergalactic space. The XMM image and VLA contours of the jets from 3C 223 show that the X-ray and radio emission is extremely well correlated. Astronomers believe the emission from the jet is produced as cosmic microwave background photons get energized by interacting with high-energy electrons in the jets. If so, then such jets would have the interesting property that their X-ray brightness would be independent of distance, allowing astronomers to effectively see back in time to when the first supermassive black holes were born.

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Each week the HEASARC brings you new, exciting and beautiful images from X-ray and Gamma ray astronomy. Check back each week and be sure to check out the HEAPOW archive!

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