Long-exposure images of the giant elliptical galaxy M87 by NASAs Chandra X-ray Observatory, together with radio observations, have provided spectacular evidence of repetitive outbursts from the vicinity of the galaxys supermassive black hole. Magnetized rings, bubbles, plumes and jets ranging in size from a few thousand to a few hundred thousand light years point to ongoing violent activity for hundreds of millions of years.
Chandra image of the giant elliptical galaxy M87 (NASA/CXC)
"The hot X-ray emitting gas extending for hundreds of thousands of light years around M87 reveals a record of episodes of black hole activity," said Paul Nulsen of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in Cambridge, Mass. and an author of an Astrophysical Journal paper describing the latest Chandra observations. "With these detailed observations, we are beginning to understand how the central supermassive black hole transfers enormous amounts of energy over vast reaches of space."
M87, located in the middle of the Virgo galaxy cluster, is surrounded by an extensive atmosphere of multi-million degree Celsius gas. Chandras long-exposure image has allowed astronomers to see in more detail structures discovered by previous observations with Chandra and other X-ray telescopes, to discover new features, and to make specific comparisons with radio images, which trace the presence of high-energy electrons in a magnetic field.
Steve Roy | MSFC
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