Black holes are famous for being ravenous eaters, but they do not eat everything that falls toward them. A small portion of material gets shot back out in powerful jets of hot gas, called plasma, that can wreak havoc on their surroundings. Along the way, this plasma somehow gets energized enough to strongly radiate light, forming two bright columns along the black hole’s axis of rotation.
A computer simulation of the powerful jets generated by supermassive black holes at the centres of the largest galaxies explains why some burst forth as bright beacons visible across the universe, while others fall apart and never pierce the halo of the galaxy. A jet’s hot ionised gas is propelled by the twisting magnetic fields of the central rotating black hole.
Two volunteer participants in an international citizen science project, T. Matorney and I. A. Terentev, have had a rare galaxy cluster that they found named after them. The pair pieced together the huge C-shaped structure of RGZ-CL J0823.2+0333 from much smaller images of cosmic radio waves shown to them as part of the web-based program Radio Galaxy Zoo.
Deep radio imaging by researchers in the University of Cape Town and University of the Western Cape, in South Africa, has revealed that supermassive black holes in a region of the distant universe are all spinning out radio jets in the same direction — most likely a result of primordial mass fluctuations in the early universe.
Astronomers using an orbiting radio telescope in conjunction with four ground-based radio telescopes have achieved the highest resolution, or ability to discern fine detail, of any astronomical observation ever made. The researchers were surprised when their Earth-space system revealed a core temperature hotter than 10 trillion degrees for quasar 3C 273.
The edge-on spiral galaxy captured in this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image lies about one billion light-years away in the constellation of Eridanus. In 2003, the galaxy was discovered to possess giant jets of superheated gas emitting in the radio part of the spectrum. These jets have long been associated with the cores of giant elliptical galaxies, but are rare in spirals.
Astrophysicists have used the National Science Foundation’s Blue Waters supercomputer to perform 3-D simulations of a mere 10 milliseconds in the collapse of a massive star into a neutron star, proving that these catastrophic events — often called hypernovae — can generate the enormous magnetic fields needed to explode the star and fire off bursts of gamma rays visible halfway across the universe.