Supermassive Black Holes Make for Out-of-this-World Cool Photos

supermassive black hole

This illustration released by the journal Nature on shows an artist’s conception of the unusual gamma-ray transient Swift J164449.3+573451. We witness the birth of a relativistic jet from a tidally disrupted star near the event horizon of a supermassive black hole. The highly variable X-ray emission present at early times likely comes from a distinct region (blue) from the radio emission (red). This highly energetic event was serendipitously beamed towards the Earth. A black hole described as a "cosmic monster" lurking at the heart of a galaxy has been recorded as it tore apart a luckless star, astronomers report in the journal Nature on August 24, 2011. On March 25, NASA's Swift orbital telescope captured a surge of X-rays from deep space, disgorged by what was clearly an immensely powerful source. AMADEO BACHAR/AFP/Getty Images/Newscom. Find it on Newscom: afplivefour005947

A few days ago astronomers announced that they saw, for the first time, a star in the process of being swallowed by a supermassive black hole. Aside from thinking pictures of deep space had pretty colors, I’ve never cared much about what was going on in the great “out there”. But something about the story and the accompanying pictures has had me hooked and now you get to share in the total awesomeness that are supermassive black holes. Seriously. Not only do they eat stars, but they form fantastic light shows in the process.

Here’s a good article to read about it. I predict that supermassive black holes will be the new “it” thing in the news. Mostly because it’s cool to say it, and because of Muse’s out-of-this-world adaptation of the same name … it’s been stuck in my head since I read the original article.

So look at these really fun pictures – some are actual images from the Hubble telescope, others are artist’s conceptions, and there are a few composite X-Ray images. You’ll fall in love.

supermassive black hole

This NASA photo obtained on January 25, 2011 shows stars that are forming in Henize 2-10, a dwarf starburst galaxy located about 30 million light years from Earth, at a prodigious rate, giving the star clusters in this galaxy their blue appearance. This combination of a burst of star formation and a massive black hole is analogous to conditions in the early Universe. Since Henize 2-10 does not contain a significant bulge of stars in its center, these results show that supermassive black hole growth may precede the growth of bulges in galaxies. This differs from the relatively nearby universe where the growth of galaxy bulges and supermassive black holes appears to occur in parallel. This image shows optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope in red, green and blue, X-ray data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory in purple, and radio data from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Very Large Array in yellow. A compact X-ray source at the center of the galaxy coincides with a radio source, giving evidence for an actively growing supermassive black hole with a mass of about one million times that of the sun. HO/AFP/Getty Images/Newscom. Find it on Newscom: afplivethree725925

supermassive black hole

Hubble's panchromatic vision, stretching from ultraviolet through near-infrared wavelengths, reveals the vibrant glow of young, blue star clusters and a glimpse into regions normally obscured by the dust in this image taken in July 2010 with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 and released on June 16, 2011. The warped shape of Centaurus A's disk of gas and dust is evidence for a past collision and merger with another galaxy. The resulting shockwaves cause hydrogen gas clouds to compress, triggering a firestorm of new star formation. These are visible in the red patches in this Hubble close-up. At a distance of just over 11 million light-years, Centaurus A contains the closest active galactic nucleus to Earth. The center is home for a supermassive black hole that ejects jets of high-speed gas into space, but neither the supermassive or the jets are visible in this image. HO/RTR/Newscom. Find it on Newscom: rtrlfour637507

intermediate black hole

This undated artist's conception released by NASA 13 April, 1999 shows an intermediate-sized black hole, which exists in the heart of spiral galaxies throughout the universe. Black holes emit no light. What is visible from Earth is the accretion disk (matter swirling into the black hole, often glowing in x-ray energy) and jets (beams of particles moving away from the black hole). An intermediate-sized black hole is 100 to 10,000 times as massive as the Sun, yet occupies a region smaller than the Moon. Previously, only two types of black holes were thought to exist: stellar black holes, several times more massive than the Sun, and supermassive black holes, with the mass of a million or billion times that of the Sun. NASA/AFP/Newscom. Find it on Newscom: afpphotos056655

black hole

This composite image obtained February 17, 2010 from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory shows the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, known as Sagittarius A* (or Sgr A* for short), long known to astronomers as a particularly poor eater. The fuel for this black hole comes from powerful winds blown off dozens of massive young stars that are concentrated nearby. These stars are located a relatively large distance away from Sgr A*, where the gravity of the black hole is weak, and so their high-velocity winds are difficult for the black hole to capture and swallow. Scientists have previously calculated that Sgr A* should consume only about 1% of the fuel carried in the winds. AFP/Getty Images/Newscom. Find it on Newscom: afplivethree202026

ring of black holes

This NASA image obtained on February 15, 2011 shows a new image of a ring-not of jewels- but of black holes. This composite image of Arp 147, a pair of interacting galaxies located about 430 million light years from Earth, shows X-rays from the NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory (pink) and optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope (red, green, blue) produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute, or STScI. Arp 147 contains the remnant of a spiral galaxy (right) that collided with the elliptical galaxy on the left. This collision has produced an expanding wave of star formation that shows up as a blue ring containing in abundance of massive young stars. These stars race through their evolution in a few million years or less and explode as supernovas, leaving behind neutron stars and black holes. The nine X-ray sources scattered around the ring in Arp 147 are so bright that they must be black holes, with masses that are likely ten to twenty times that of the sun. An X-ray source is also detected in the nucleus of the red galaxy on the left and may be powered by a poorly-fed supermassive black hole. This source is not obvious in the composite image but can easily be seen in the X-ray image. Other objects unrelated to Arp 147 are also visible: a foreground star in the lower left of the image and a background quasar as the pink source above and to the left of the red galaxy. HO/AFP/Getty Images/Newscom. Find it on Newscom: afplivethree758434

supermassive black hole

An artist’s rendering of the most distant quasar released by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) on June 29, 2011. Astronomers said on June 29, 2011 they had snared light from a bright, ancient galaxy with a super-massive black hole at its core, a finding that would help explain aspects of the young Universe. The phenomenon is called a quasar, which are very bright but very distant galaxies with a mighty black hole at their heart. ULAS J1120+0641 has a "redshift" -- a signature of red light that is a telltale of distance -- of 8.6, meaning that the light took 12.9 billion years to reach us. M. KORNMESSER/AFP/Getty Images/Newscom. Find it on Newscom: afplivethree963621

supermassive black hole

A powerful jet from a supermassive black hole is blasting a nearby galaxy, according to new data from NASA observatories. This never-before witnessed galactic violence may have a profound effect on planets in the jet's path and trigger a burst of star formation in its destructive wake. Known as 3C 321, the system contains two galaxies in orbit around each other. Data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory show both galaxies contain supermassive black holes at their centres, but the larger galaxy has a jet emanating from the vicinity of its black hole. The smaller galaxy apparently has swung into the path of this jet. This "death star galaxy" was discovered through the combined efforts of both space and ground-based telescopes. It is possible the event is not all be bad news for the galaxy being struck by the jet. The massive influx of energy and radiation from the jet could induce the formation of large numbers of stars and planets after its initial wake of destruction is complete. JP5\ZOB/WENN/Newscom. Find it on Newscom: wennoddpix016728

supermassive black hole

This image courtesy of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) shows an artist's impression of an active galaxy that has jets. The central engine is thought to be a supermassive black hole surrounded by an accretion disc and enshrouded in a thick doughnut-shaped structure of gas and dust, which astronomers call a "torus". The torus of dust and gas can be seen orbiting a flatter disc of swirling gas. In the centre, the supermassive black hole is surrounded by a flat accretion disc of rapidly orbiting material. The jets are emitted at right angles from the plane of the disc. ESO/AFP/GETTY IMAGES/Newscom. Find it on Newscom: afplive446885

supermassive black hole

This NASA Chandra image obtained 10 July, 2003 shows a composite X-ray (blue and green) and optical (red) image of the active galaxy, NGC 1068, that shows gas blowing away in a high-speed wind from the vicinity of a central supermassive black hole. Regions of intense star formation in the inner spiral arms of the galaxy are highlighted by both optical and X-ray emission. The elongated shape of the gas cloud is thought to be due to the funneling effect of a torus, or doughnut-shaped cloud, of cool gas and dust that surrounds the black hole. The torus, which appears as the elongated white spot in the accompanying 3-color X-ray images, has a mass of about 5 million Suns. Radio observations indicate that the torus extends from within a few light years of the black hole out to about 300 light years. NASA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES/Newscom. Find it on Newscom: afplive451942

black hole

Rings of brilliant blue stars encircle the bright, active core of this spiral galaxy, whose monster black hole is blasting material into space at 9 million miles an hour. Viewed nearly face-on, the galaxy, called Markarian 817, shows intense star-forming regions and dark bands of interstellar dust along its spiral arms. NASA, ESA, and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team via CNP/Newscom. Find it on Newscom: cnpphotos020125

black hole

This image released on Monday, 22 October 2001, by the European Space Agency (ESA), taken by ESA's X-ray Multi-Mirror Mission (XMM-Newton), shows a satellite observing a supermassive black hole in the core of galaxy named MCG 6-30-15. Scientists for the first time have seen energy being extracted from a black hole. Like an electric dynamo, this black hole spins and pumps energy out through cable-like magnetic field lines into the chaotic gas whipping around it, making the gas - already infernally hot from the sheer force of crushing gravity - even hotter. The observation also may explain the origin of particle jets in quasars. XMM-Newton, launched from French Guiana by ESA in December 1999, carries three advanced X-ray telescopes with the light-collecting ability to detect millions of sources, far greater than any previous X-ray mission. NASA helped fund mission development and supports guest observatory time. epa/Newscom. Find it on Newscom: epaphotosfour165202

black hole

This undated NASA image obtained from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory shows galaxy Centaurus A and an active supermassive black hole. Opposing jets of high-energy particles can be seen extending to the outer reaches of the galaxy, and numerous smaller black holes in binary star systems are also visible. Centaurus A is the nearest galaxy to Earth that contains a supermassive black hole actively powering a jet. KEVIN DIETSCH/UPI/Newscom. Find it on Newscom; upiphotos828480

black hole

This image of Centaurus A shows a spectacular new view of a supermassive black hole's power. Jets and lobes powered by the central black hole in this nearby galaxy are shown by submillimeter data (colored orange) from the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) telescope in Chile and X-ray data. z03/ZUMA Press/Newscom. Find it on Newscom; zumawirewestphotos844447

black hole

This image from the Chandra X-ray Observatory shows the central region of the starburst galaxy M82 and contains two bright X-ray sources of special interest. New studies with Chandra and ESA's XMM-Newton show that these two sources may be intermediate-mass black holes, with masses in between those of the stellar-mass and supermassive variety. These 'survivor' black holes avoided falling into the center of the galaxy and could be examples of the seeds required for the growth of supermassive black holes in galaxies, including the one in the Milky Way. This is the first case where good evidence for more than one mid-sized black hole exists in a single galaxy. z03/ZUMA Press/Newscom. Find it on Newscom: zumawireworldphotosthree240443

There are so many more cool black hole and general outer space images back at Newscom. Check them out!

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