Chandra image of hot gas around Hydra A cluster
Credit: NASA/CXC/U.Waterloo/C.Kirkpatrick et al.

Cavities with Iron Fillings

Ever wonder where the complex chemicals that make up our world came from? Astronomers have found one peculiar producer of heavy elements: a black hole at the center of a large galaxy in the Hydra A galaxy cluster. As it swallows matter from its host galaxy, the black hole also generates large jets of material that push outward off its accretion disk extending for hundreds of thousands of lightyears from the galaxy into the inter-cluster void. These jets eject matter from the galaxy that has been enriched by chemicals produced in galactic supernovae. The image above shows the X-ray emission around Hydra A as observed by the Chandra X-ray observatory. Astronomers deduce the composition of the X-ray emitting material by studying its spectrum, and in doing so they find significant enhancement of iron and other elements along the directions of the jets from the black hole, indicating that the black hole is indeed "pumping iron" out into the Universe. The X-ray image also shows that the jets have pushed aside the hot gas, producing large cavities. This can be easily seen by comparing the X-ray image to a radio image which clearly shows the jets.
Published: September 21, 2009

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Sunday, 27-Sep-2009 18:54:17 EDT