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back to article Extragalactic black hole particle fountain awesomeness

International boffins, by cunningly melding together images from mighty radio telescopes situated across the southern hemisphere, have produced this excellent pic of stupendous particle jets belching from a huge "supermassive" black hole 12 million light years away in the far-off galaxy Centaurus A. Particle jets belching from …

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a53

Ahh

Very pretty.

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Happy

Reminds me of

a toy I had when I was a kid. A wheel on a magnetic axle would run up and down on a bent steel wire, with minimal effort and skill. Kept me amused for hours. (The effort had to be minimal otherwise the wheel would fly off.) Can't remember what they were called now. Are they still around, or are kids mor sophisticated these days?

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I had one of them too

Wish I could remember the name as well.

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I remember those.

I can't remember what it was either, red wheel with circular holes cut in the rim and a fairly plan metal wire loop thing. As for whether or not they are still around you could probably find them in a 'classic' toy shop or something. And no, the kids are definitely NOT more sophisticated these days, although the toys they play with are.

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Magnet Space Wheel?

According to wikipedia, at least. I had one too - they were awesome - but not quite the model in the article (and not in the 50s/60s either!)

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Linkage

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Schylling-MGW-Magnetic-Gyro-Wheel/dp/B000H66204/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1306151016&sr=8-1

You're welcome.

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Ta

That's the jobby, mine had a red metal wheel with about 6 holes cut in to form the spokes.

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Yes that's the beast

though it looked much plainer than that. I seem to remember that mine was brown. Also the metal frame was closed at the far end, with another pair of outward-facing kinks for the wheel to turn round before reaching the closed end.

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Happy

They're still around

And (although the magnets aren't as good as I recall) they're still quite fun.

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Go

look up magnetic yoyo

and then go buy one....they're still a pile of fun

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Boffin

In the US they were called

Whee - Lo

by Wham-O

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my gob is smacked

think that's the first spacey picture that has made my spine tingle. hats off to the boffins.

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Headmaster

Some slight confusion

The NASA page has a double picture - one as shown in the article which is a few hundred thousand light years across, illustrating the radio lobes, and next to it the snap of the black hole itself (or rather, the surrounding jets) - that's the one that's 4.2 light years across.

Since I'm being pedantic - while 12 million light years is 'far-off' by most people's standards, Centaurus A is actually one of our closest galactic neighbours.

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Anonymous Coward

Pendantry

Unless you mean to be imitating a pendant, as one might wear around one's neck, or hang in one's window, I do believe you may have dropped an "r" in the word "Pedantric", such as the attitude of this otherwise pointless response.

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FAIL

*Sob*

You couldn't just look it up, could you? Noooooo, you had to go and correct some poor sot . . . incorrectly. Chris Miller is correct in his spelling; you are not. The irony police will be around with bats and a chainsaw; if you must leave, please do so by way of the lumbermill.

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MrT
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20 times the size of a full moon...

There is no charge for awesomeness... or attractiveness.

And thanks to www we don't have to spend loads on telescopes either.

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Lovely pics

even prettier to me as I have just recently seen the host galaxy through big binoculars during a visit down-under. Awesome stuff!

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Errm... 4.5 light years?

This pic (http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a010000/a010700/a010770/Cen_A_Still_1.jpg) states that it is a tad over 200 000 light years across.

The photo of the inner jets, however, spans 4.5 ly.

Impressive work, though, to get resolution down to 15 light days over such a massive distance.

Anybody care to come up with a comparison "like being able to discern one facet in a gnat's left eye from 100 km away"?

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Coat

Gnat's eye

15 light days * 1 year/365 days / 12 million ly = 3.43e-9

1 gnat eye at 100 km = 0.000125 m / 100 000 m = 1.25e-9

So, more like only discerning the entire gnat eye at a rather underwhelming 33 km. Pathetic, really.

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Lewis Page - What a lovely way with words. :-)

Your words are a picture almost as informative as the actual image. ;-)

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Impressive reolution...

...but I assume from the fact that it's a (makeshift) *radio* array, that it's only picking up RF and the image had false colour put on it later.

In other words, I was going to ask whether it would be worthwhile pointing it at an exoplanet or two, but I imagine the little natural RF planets put out would be drowned out by their attendant stars? Or have I got that wrong?

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Lewis Page - What a lovely way with words. :-)

Lewis - your way with words is almost as informative as the image, itself. ;-)

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Silver badge

dont know how the jets form?

its one of them left or right hand rules - charged particles moving across a magnetic field get thrown the down your finger or thumb so as things accelerate into the object its a bit like the aurora backwards or summat and all the stuff comes out the poles - faster than J Clarkson in a PC bar.

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Astro-physics

..does anyone else get a slightly perverse satisfaction when confronted with stuff like this? Because it challenges our puny human mind's previous conceptions of what big/heavy/fast/dense/powerful/insert word here *really* is?

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Happy

Divine intervention

We were created by god(s) just so we could discover such things and go 'Fuck! just look at that'.

And then look at our tiny, short existance and think - 'what's the bleeding point of it all?'

We were created so god(s) can have an audience, no other point to humans is there?

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Lens flares

How do you get lens flares on a picture created by a radio telescope? And the + -shaped effect on the larger stars?

Is just an artist's hand at work? If so, it begs the question how much of these artificially created visuals are manipulated to make them look pretty. For example, are all the colours of the actual subject just arbitrary choices to make it look pretty (radio waves don't have colour per se)?

Are all the surrounding stars actually part of the original image, or just added there for flavour? Are they even real or just product of a digital equivalent of paint, toothbrush and black canvas? The ring patterns in the stars are a bit suspect in their symmetry ...

/end mandatory pessimistic wet blanket ignorant layman conspiracy theorist message.

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@foo_bar_baz

It's to make it look like a Chris Foss book cover from Panther and Granada books in the '70s. Things like Children of the Lens, many of the Asimov books (the Gods Themselves would be appropriate, I think), and many other iconic images.

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@Lens flares

They are diffraction spikes, usually caused by the cross arms which hold the secondary optics on mirror telescopes.

I would assume that the image is a composite of an optical image and the radio images.

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Happy

@Liam Johnson

Thanks for the answer!

And to whoever gave my message a thumbs down: why? Enquiring minds are forbidden on a tech/sci site?

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The image

The false colours applied to the image, I would guess, represent the different wavelengths in the received radio signal.

Maybe the radio image has been overlayed onto a visible-wavelength image, to show where the stars are and give context. And to make it pretty. This may explain the diffraction lines.

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Boffin

In perspective

I calculate that 15 light days per pixel at 12m light years distance is the same as the width of a human hair at 6338.9469 double-decker buses away.

Although I should add that the width-of-a-human-hair unit is non-standard according to the ElReg online standards converter, and so may need expressing in linguine if you're unsure.

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Boffin

Just wondering...

... does one jet consist of matter and the other one antimatter?

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No.

That would be utterly terrifying. I mean, moreso than the things that are usually in the vicinity of an active galactic nucleus.

Toward the center of the accretion disk, material falling in gets going really fast and heats up to an extremely energetic plasma through friction; gravitational potential energy is more or less becoming heat here. Whenever a collection of charges moves--and a toroidal death cloud whirling around a black hole certainly counts--it sets up magnetic fields. But when a charged particle cuts across magnetic field lines, it gets deflected; when a relativistic charged particle cuts across the magnetic field lines produced by the biggest, scariest kind of dynamo possible, it'll /really/ get deflected, and will probably shoot off along one of the poles.

Nobody's entirely sure of the exact mechanism, but this is mostly because magnetohydrodynamics--that scary place that exists somewhere between fluid mechanics and electrodynamics--is a very thorny subject. However, the fundamental cause--very fast-moving charged particles, drawn in and sped up by gravity, simultaneously generating and interacting with magnetic fields of terrifying stature--seems to be a pretty uncontroversial idea, if the NRAO's lectures are any indication. That is the meaning of "not fully understood" in this case: The math's not all filled in yet and there are probably a lot of weird things still hidden in that horrid mess of electromagnetic fields, but we seem to have the basic idea down.

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FAIL

Black holes are very messy eaters

> Exactly why and how the colossal black hole emits these particle jets is poorly understood. Most of

> the matter it sucks in cannot escape, but some is thrown out with enormous violence even as the

> rest is crushed down into unfeasibly dense incrediblo-stuff.

Um... no. Most of the matter going into a black hole ends up jetting off. Only a small fraction goes over the event horizon (usually around 3%)

Think of them as giant Cookie Monsters going "Om nom nom", while spraying the room with crumbs.

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I prefer to think of them

using a different metaphor. Given the speed of evolution of the meme 'Black Hole', I think 'shit hitting the fan' also describes the explanatory matrix quite well. Let's face it, you've just told us these objects are only 3% black hole - some of us will be feeling cheated.

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It is a word whose misuse and ubiquity theses days normally makes.......

.........me cringe. However, when I saw that astonishing photograph I was, almost, tempted to say "that is aw***e". I resisted the temptation manfully and will content myself by saying that that is one of the most awe-inspiring images from space that I have ever seen. I congratulate the team behind the work.

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Alien

welcome

I, for one, welcome our magneto-hydrodynamic overlords.

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