Massive Black Hole Eats Galaxy Close to Earth!
It’s not every day that scientists find evidence that a massive black hole is eating a galaxy. It’s even cooler when the galaxy happens to be only 10 million light-years away from Earth!
Massive black holes eating galaxies were pretty common place when the universe was young while galaxies were forming and evolving. It’s pretty rare to see one today.
The Hubble Space Telescope captured the event occurring in the galaxy called Centaurus A. Centaurus A is actually two galaxies that have merged together – the result of a galactic collision. It appears as though the massive black hole in the center of the larger of the two merged galaxies is feasting on the remains of the smaller merged galaxy.
Using a variety of instruments on the Hubble Space Telescope, capturing visible and infrared light as well as x-rays and radio frequencies, scientists are able to see past the dark dust lane girdling the galaxy and observe the patterns formed by the hot gasses that have been swept up in the ferocity of the massive black hole’s gravitational whirlpool. It is thought that this black hole has the mass of about one billion stars which have been compressed into an area about the size of our solar system.
The composite image above shows the wobbly wheel of hot gasses swirling around the black hole as well as the high speed jet of material being ejected from the poles of the black hole.
Usually, we have to look hundreds of millions of light-years away to find something so dramatic. Centaurus A is practically in our back yard – it’s only 10 million light-years away.
Image Credit: NASA & ESA