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Quasars & Active Galaxies
X-ray Astronomy Field Guide
Quasars & Active Galaxies
Questions and Answers
Quasars & Active Galaxies
Chandra Images
Quasars & Active Galaxies
Animations & Video: Quasars & Active Galaxies
Page 1234
Click for high-resolution animation
1. Tour of NGC 4258 (M106)
QuicktimeMPEG NGC 4258, also known as Messier 106, is a spiral galaxy like the Milky Way. This galaxy is famous, however, for something that our Galaxy doesn’t have – two extra spiral arms that glow in X-ray, optical, and radio light. These features, or anomalous arms, are not aligned with the plane of the galaxy, but instead intersect with it. The X-ray image from Chandra reveals huge bubbles of hot gas above and below the plane of the galaxy. These bubbles indicate that much of the gas that was originally in the disk of the galaxy has been heated to millions of degrees and ejected into the outer regions by the jets from the black hole. The ejection of gas from the disk by the jets has important implications for the fate of this galaxy. Researchers estimate that all of the remaining gas will be ejected within the next 300 million years -- very soon on cosmic time scales – unless it is somehow replenished. Without this gas, relatively few stars can form there. In fact, scientists estimate that that star formation in the central region of NGC 4258 is already being choked off, with stars forming at a rate ten times less than in the Milky Way galaxy.
[Runtime: 01:42]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

Related Chandra Images:

Click for high-resolution animation
2. Tour of RX J1131-1231
QuicktimeMPEG Black holes seem like such mysterious and complicated objects. On one hand, they are, and astronomers have been studying them for decades to learn more. On the other, black holes are actually quite simple. By this, we mean that black holes are defined by just two simple characteristics: their mass and their spin. While astronomers have long been able to measure black hole masses very effectively, determining their spins has been much more difficult. A new result from researchers using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA's XMM-Newton takes a step in addressing the spin question. By a lucky alignment, the light from a quasar some 6 billion light years has been magnified and amplified due to an effect called gravitational lensing. This allowed researchers to get detailed information about the amount of X-rays seen at different energies. This, in turn, gave the researchers information about how fast the supermassive black hole at the center of the quasar is spinning. When combined with the spins from other black holes using more indirect methods, astronomers are beginning to better understand just how black holes grow over time across the Universe.
[Runtime: 01:30]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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3. A New Look at an Old Friend
QuicktimeMPEG Just weeks after NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory began operations in 1999, the telescope pointed at Centaurus A (Cen A, for short). This galaxy, at a distance of about 12 million light years from Earth, contains a gargantuan jet blasting away from a central supermassive black hole.

Since then, Chandra has returned its attention to this galaxy, each time gathering more data. And, like an old family photo that has been digitally restored, new processing techniques are providing astronomers with a new look at this old galactic friend.

This new image of Cen A contains data from observations, equivalent to over nine and a half days worth of observing time, taken between 1999 and 2012. In this image, the lowest-energy X-rays Chandra detects are in red, while the medium-energy X-rays are green, and the highest-energy ones are blue.

As in all of Chandra's images of Cen A, this one shows the spectacular jet of outflowing material that is generated by the giant black hole at the galaxy's center. The new image also highlights a dust lane that wraps around the waist of the galaxy. Astronomers think this feature is a remnant of a collision that Cen A experienced with a smaller galaxy millions of years ago.

In addition to allowing for the creation of new images, the data housed in Chandra's extensive archive on Cen A provide a rich resource for a wide range of scientific investigations. For example, just last year researchers published new findings on the point-like X-ray sources in Cen A. They found that these sources had masses that fell into two categories. These separate groups correspond to systems where either a neutron star or a black hole is pulling material from a companion star. Information like this may tell us important details about the way the massive stars explode, and gives us even more reason to appreciate this new view of a familiar object.
[Runtime: 02:22]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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4. The Invisible Universe Exposed
QuicktimeMPEG

Pictures of space are often gorgeous. But one of the most exciting things about them is that, very often, they show us things that are invisible to the human eye. This picture in particular does that. In the middle of the photograph lurks an invisible monster, called a super-massive black hole To make this invisible object even harder to study, it is hidden under a thick cloud of dust at the centre of its home galaxy! Even the bright blobs of colour you can see are patches of light that our eyes cannot detect naturally. The pink colour shows radio light, and X-rays are shown in blue.

A black hole is anything but empty space, don't let the name fool you. It is a huge amount of material packed into a very tiny area - this one has about 100 million times the mass of our Sun! Anything that wanders too close to a Black Hole is pulled into it with no chance of escape, including light. This is why we cannot see black holes, they are invisible even to telescopes that detect X-rays, radio waves and other types of light.

The only way we can spot black holes is by detecting its effect on other things. For example, in this picture, the brightest blue patches, along the edge of the galaxy reveal where a high-energy jet has ploughed into clumps of galactic dust. The jet was made up of particles that were heated as they were pulled into the black hole. This gave them energy and sent them speeding away from the black hole at millions of miles per hour! Two similar jets can be seen in pink, shooting to the North and South of the galaxy.


[Runtime: 02:12]
(NASA/CXC/April Jubett)

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5. Tour of 4C+29.30
QuicktimeMPEG Astronomers think that just about every galaxy contains a giant, or supermassive, black hole at their center. Sometimes the intense gravity of these black holes can be tapped to produce intense power. That's what is happening in the galaxy known as 4C+29.30, which is found some 850 million light years from Earth. By looking at this galaxy with different telescopes, astronomers can get a more complete picture. Radio data show two jets of particles that are speeding at millions of miles per hour away from the supermassive black hole. X-rays from Chandra trace the location of hot gas in the galaxy. The bright X-rays in the center of the image mark a pool of million-degree gas around the black hole. Some of this material may eventually be consumed by the black hole, and the magnetized, whirlpool of gas near the black hole could, in turn, trigger more output to the radio jet. Most of the low-energy X-rays around the black hole are absorbed by dust and gas, which is probably in the shape of a giant doughnut around the black hole. This doughnut, or torus, blocks all the optical light produced near the black hole, so astronomers refer to this type of source as a hidden or buried black hole.
[Runtime: 01:36]
(NASA/CXC/J. DePasquale)

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6. Tour of GB 1428+4217
QuicktimeMPEG The most distant jet in X-ray light has been discovered using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. This jet was found in the quasar known as GB 1428+4217, or GB 1428 for short. How does GB 1428 make its jet? When giant black holes pull in material at a very rapid rate, large amounts of energy are released. This results in the production of intense radiation and beams of high-energy particles that blast away from the black hole at nearly the speed of light. Astronomers call these beams of particles "jets". At a distance of 12.4 billion years from Earth, the jet in GB 1428 gives astronomers a glimpse into the explosive activity associated with the growth of giant black holes in the early Universe.
[Runtime: 1.01]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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7. Tour of NGC 4178
QuicktimeMPEG A supermassive black hole with one of the lowest masses ever observed has been spotted in the middle of a galaxy, using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and several other observatories. The black hole is located in the middle of the spiral galaxy NGC 4178, shown in this optical image. The inset shows an X-ray source at the position of the black hole, located at the center of a Chandra image. An analysis of the Chandra data, along with infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope and radio data from the Very Large Array suggests that the black hole has a mass less than about 200,000 times that of the sun. This is lower than the mass of most supermassive black holes. The host galaxy is of a type not expected to harbor supermassive black holes, suggesting that this black hole, while related to its supermassive cousins, may have a different origin.
[Runtime: 1.05]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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8. Tour of CID-42
QuicktimeMPEG At the center of a galaxy some 4 billion light years from Earth, something extraordinary is happening. This galaxy, known as CID-42, contains a giant black hole. This fact itself is not so unusual. What is different about CID-42 is that this supermassive black hole is being ejected from its host galaxy at several million miles per hour. What led to this black hole ejection? Astronomers think that in the past CID-42 collided with another galaxy. When it did, the two central black holes also collided and merged. The joined black hole then received a powerful kick from gravitational waves, a phenomenon predicted by Einstein but never directly detected. While astronomers have been studying CID-42 for quite some time, it took new data from Chandra's High Resolution Camera to pinpoint just where the X-rays were coming from, which helped clarify just what was going on in this galaxy.
[Runtime: 01:03]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

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9. Simulation of Black Hole Ejection
QuicktimeMPEG This simulation shows a collision between a pair of spiral galaxies leading to a merger between their supermassive black holes and an ejection of the new black hole that forms. This represents a model for the formation and evolution of the exotic X-ray source CID-42.
The galaxy collision causes long tails of stars to be thrown out of each galaxy. After the collision the two black holes (labelled by circles) initially located at the center of each galaxy orbit around each other until they eventually merge. The newly formed black hole recoils from the directional emission of gravitational waves produced by the collision, giving the newly merged black hole a sufficiently large kick for it to eventually escape from the galaxy. The simulation freezes briefly to make a comparison with the HST optical image, at a time about 6 million years after the merger. The speed of the black hole at this time is over three million miles per hour, compared to the escape velocity of the galaxy of only about 1.7 million miles per hour.
The masses of the two galaxies are about 450 billion and 230 billion times the mass of the sun, with stars forming throughout the simulation. The masses of the two black holes just before they merge are about 5.4 and 4.3 million times the mass of the sun, giving a total of about 10 million solar masses for the new black hole. Both black holes grow considerably during the galaxy collision. The total duration of the movie is 2 billion years, with the merger and ejection of the black hole occurring after 1.9 billion years. The movie runs at half speed after the merger so the eye can track the black hole flying out of the galaxy. The recoiling black hole could be detectable, by radiation from material in a surrounding disk, for several million years after the time of the observation. By the end of the simulation, the BH has virtually exhausted its gas supply and is moving, invisible, through intergalactic space.
[Runtime: 00.29]
(Laura Blecha)

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10. Tour of CID 1711 and CID 3083
QuicktimeMPEG Astronomers have recently completed a large survey of the sky using some of the powerful telescopes both on the ground and in space. This survey, known as the Cosmic Evolution Survey, or COSMOS, has revealed many results. The latest comes from a study of galaxies, both in pairs and others on their own. Researchers wanted to test whether or not close encounters between two galaxies trigger activity in the supermassive black holes at their centers. The two galaxies seen here are just samples from the thousands of galaxies they studied. The Chandra data were key because the X-rays can pinpoint just how active these black holes are. It turns out that the black holes within these galaxies are, in fact, growing more rapidly if they are in the early stages of an encounter with another galaxy. Maybe galaxies and their black holes are social after all.
[Runtime: 1.07]
(NASA/CXC/A. Hobart)

Related Chandra Images:

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