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4C+00.58: Black Hole Jerked Around Twice

  • A giant black hole has been jerked around twice, causing its spin axis to point in a different direction from before.

  • If confirmed, this discovery might explain several mysterious-looking objects found throughout the Universe.

  • A new deep observation with Chandra of 4C +00.58 was key in making this finding.

  • When combined with radio observations, the X-rays suggest collisions with other galaxies may be responsible for the changes in the black hole's spin.

This image shows the effects of a giant black hole that has been flipped around twice, causing its spin axis to point in a different direction from before. The large optical image, from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, is centered on a radio galaxy named 4C +00.58. The smaller image to the right shows a close-up view of this galaxy in X-rays (in gold) from the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and radio waves (in blue) from the Very Large Array.

At the center of 4C +00.58 is a supermassive black hole that is actively pulling in large quantities of gas. Gas swirling toward the black hole forms a disk around the black hole, generating strong electromagnetic forces that propel some of the gas away from the disk at high speed, producing radio jets. A radio image of this galaxy shows a bright pair of jets pointing from left to right and a fainter, more distant line of radio emission running approximately from the top to the bottom of the image. A labeled image shows these two sets of radio emission. This galaxy belongs to a class of "X-shaped" galaxies because of the outline of the radio emission.

The X-ray image of hot gas in and around 4C +00.58 reveals four different cavities -- regions of lower than average X-ray emission -- around the black hole. These cavities come in pairs: one in the top-right and bottom-left (labeled cavities #1 and #2 respectively), and another in the top-left and bottom-right (labeled cavities #3 and #4 respectively). Special processing was applied to this image to make the cavities more obvious.

According to the scenario presented by a new study, the spin axis of the black hole ran along a diagonal line from top-right to bottom-left. The galaxy then collided with a smaller galaxy. Possible evidence for this collision is seen in the optical image, in the form of a stellar shell. After this collision, a jet powered by the black hole ignited, blowing away gas to form cavities #1 and #2 in the hot gas. Since the gas falling onto the black hole was not aligned with the spin of the black hole, the spin axis of the black hole rapidly changed direction, and the jets then pointed in a roughly top-left to bottom-right direction, creating cavities #3 and #4 and radio emission in this direction.

Then, either a merging of the two central black holes from the colliding galaxies, or more gas falling onto the black hole caused the spin axis to jerk around to its present direction in roughly a left to right direction.

Fast Facts for 4C+00.58:
Credit  X-ray (NASA/CXC/UMD/Hodges-Kluck et al): Radio (NSF/NRAO/VLA/UMD/Hodges-Kluck et al); Optical (SDSS)
Release Date  July 21, 2010
Scale  Wide field image is 15 arcmin across (3.4 million light years), inset image is 1.6 arcmin across (363,000 light years)
Category  Cosmology/Deep Fields/X-ray Background, Black Holes
Coordinates (J2000)  RA 16h 06m 12.70s | Dec +00° 00' 27.10"
Constellation  Serpens
Observation Date  Dec 22, 2007 & Apr 29, 2009
Observation Time  30 hours
Obs. ID  9274, 10304
Instrument  ACIS
References E.Hodges-Kluck et al, 2010 ApJL, 717:L37-L41
Color Code  X-ray (Red-Gold), Radio (Blue)
Distance Estimate  780 million light years
distance arrow
Visitor Comments (19)

My question is if we consider 4 different black holes for instance is it possible that these black holes are diagonally placed to each other? Is there any such discovery made?

Posted by Jay Lahoti on Thursday, 07.2.15 @ 23:55pm

Dear Kanisha,
Thanks for your question. Please refer to our field guide about black holes
for more information about these fascinating objects:

P. Edmonds for CXC

Posted by P. Edmonds on Tuesday, 10.26.10 @ 10:31am

Dear CVM,
That is an interesting question - thanks. I cannot think of any special advantage there is for a solar system located outside a galaxy. However, the sling-shot process that has been evoked to toss a star out of a galaxy may cause severe changes to the orbits of planets around a star. Also, the environmental conditions are likely to have been a problem for the development of life if the star was initially located near a supermassive
black hole.
P. Edmonds for CXC

Posted by P. Edmonds on Tuesday, 10.26.10 @ 10:30am

I just love this. What an age we live in where we can understand the things we see in the universe
I have been reading about hyper-velocity stars - stars that for some reason are outside of their galaxy and traveling a very high velocities. My question is this, supposing that the star has a system of planets that have largely or entirely remained intact after being ejected from the galaxy - what advantage to a solar system is there in being within the gravitational bounds of a galaxy? Or can a solar system exist well enough outside a galaxy?

Posted by CVM87 on Tuesday, 09.28.10 @ 10:04am

I don't understand what is black hole, what harm will it do? when and why will it do? why supermassive black hole pulling in large quantities of gases?

Please answer me this questions
Kanisha Saha Sarcar
India Kolkata
student of class 7

Posted by kanisha saha sarcar on Sunday, 09.26.10 @ 05:07am

Dear Nick Tavani,
Thanks for your compliment and for your question. Science is giving us an increasingly sophisticated understanding of the evolution of our solar system and the Earth, and the development of life. The discovery of hundreds of planets outside our solar system and continued studies of the evolution of Sun-like stars is also providing important context. Ultimately we may find that Earth-like planets and life are common in our galaxy. This would suggest a pattern, rather than a design.
P.Edmonds, CXC

Posted by P. Edmonds on Friday, 08.20.10 @ 16:40pm

Love your work. Your website provides some far out distraction during the work day. The photos and explanations are both clear and fascinating. Do you think earth's corner of the universe shows design or just random coincidences of factors friendly to advanced life.

Posted by Nick Tavani on Tuesday, 08.17.10 @ 10:35am

Dear Jesse Carroll,
Thanks for your comment. I don't have any more information about that object, but it would be possible to use a tool like the World Wide Telescope to try to hunt down more information about it.
P.Edmonds, CXC

Posted by P.Edmonds on Thursday, 08.5.10 @ 10:40am

Dear Lothar Thiel,
Thanks for your question. Supermassive black holes are found at the centers of galaxies and have masses of millions or billions of times that of the Sun. A very different class of black hole are the stellar-mass variety with masses of about ten times that of the Sun. Then there is a third variety with masses in between these two extremes. For more, see:

P.Edmonds, CXC

Posted by P.Edmonds on Thursday, 08.5.10 @ 10:38am

Dear Jim Henson,
Thanks for your interesting theory. The Earth's location near the plane of the Milky Way galaxy means that we are shielded from much of the radiation that might be generated by the central supermassive black hole. Even without this shielding it's very unlikely that Earth would be regularly hit by randomly oriented jets caused by large mergers.
P.Edmonds, CXC

Posted by P.Edmonds on Thursday, 08.5.10 @ 10:19am

Hello Lothar,
Supermassive means a mass of millions to billions times the mass of the Sun. By contrast, there are intermediate mass 100-1000 times the Solar mass, Solar mass black holes, 1-10 x the Solar mass, and mini, evaporating black holes, Earth mass or mountain-mass black holes. The black holes at the centers of active galaxies, or inactive galaxies, like the Milky Way, are found to be supermassive.

Posted by KarlD on Wednesday, 08.4.10 @ 09:41am

Pix are great, especially like the explanations of what's going on. Nice to keep learning things. Thanks for your efforts.

Posted by Avery Booth Stone on Thursday, 07.29.10 @ 13:08pm


Posted by marie on Sunday, 07.25.10 @ 14:53pm

Nice, black holes are fascinating.

Posted by Tosh on Saturday, 07.24.10 @ 23:13pm

Can the flipping of the milky ways spin axis explain earths variable 25 to 29 million year cycle of mass extinctions spiral arm stars like our sun would have less shielding by dust and gas between the center of the galaxy and our solar system until approximately 4 million years later? when they would assume definite spiral arm formations again?

Posted by jim henson on Saturday, 07.24.10 @ 17:19pm

Exceptionally beautiful.

Posted by prana fistianduta on Saturday, 07.24.10 @ 09:47am

I am happy that you work very hard to save the world and inform us that everything happens in space. I would love to join NASA. I wish you be success all the time good luck.

Posted by Farid on Friday, 07.23.10 @ 06:15am

I don't understand the expression "supermassive black hole". Aren't black holes always supermassive? Or are there less massive black holes although being defined as the most massive phenomenon of the universe? Or did you want to say that it is a very big black hole? Thanks for a little hint
Best regards
Lothar Thiel
Bilbao Spain

Posted by Lothar Thiel on Thursday, 07.22.10 @ 06:24am

There is a Double Galaxy to the left and up a bit, in the wide field view. I wonder if it is active too.


Posted by Jesse Carroll on Wednesday, 07.21.10 @ 22:06pm

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