Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2001 November 1
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
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M87's Energetic Jet
Credit: X-ray: H. Marshall (MIT), et al., CXC, NASA
Radio: F. Zhou, F. Owen (NRAO), J. Biretta (STScI)
Optical: E. Perlman (UMBC), et al., STScI, NASA

Explanation: An energetic jet from the core of giant elliptical galaxy M87 stretches outward for 5,000 light-years. This monstrous jet appears in the panels above to be a knotted and irregular structure, dectected across the spectrum, from x-ray to optical to radio wavelengths. In all these bands, the observed emission is likely created as high energy electrons spiral along magnetic field lines, so called synchrotron radiation. But what powers this cosmic blowtorch? Ultimately, the jet is thought to be produced as matter near the center of M87 swirls toward a spinning, supermassive black hole. Strong electromagnetic forces are generated and eject material away from the black hole along the axis of rotation in a narrow jet. Galaxy M87 is about 50 million light-years away and reigns as the large central elliptical galaxy in the Virgo cluster.

Tomorrow's picture: Not an ancient Greek goddess ...

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
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