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

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

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

You can also read these other cool Newscom blog posts:

Pictures of the Week: Under the Water

The Changing Face of Apple

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