3C321 blasting neighboring galaxy
Credit: NASA/CXC/CfA/D.Evans et al.; Optical/UV: NASA/STScI; Radio: NSF/VLA/CfA/D.Evans et al., STFC/JBO/MERLIN

Intergalactic Battle

Active galactic nuclei are like giant particle beam weapons. Their central black holes swallow matter at a prodigious rate, and generate by some means still not entirely understood narrow beams of high energy particles and radiation that can extend outward for millions of light years. But what happens when something gets in the path of this beam? A particularly dangerous example, and unique (so far), is the active galaxy 3C321, shown above in a composite of X-ray (purple, from Chandra), optical and UV (red and orange, from the Hubble Space Telescope) and radio (blue, from MERLIN) images. The central jet from 3C321 hits the edge of a neighboring galaxy and is deflected by it. Astronomers are not sure how the neighbor is affected; but the beam is probably powerful enough to do significant damage to nebulae, stars, and planets (if any) in the way of the death ray.

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

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