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.

2009 June 8
See Explanation.
Moving the cursor over the image will bring up an annotated version.
Clicking on the image will bring up the highest resolution version

Possible Jet Blown Shells Near Microquasar Cygnus X-1
Credit & Copyright: Steve Cullen (

Explanation: What happens to matter that falls toward an energetic black hole? In the case of Cygnus X-1, perhaps little of that matter actually makes it in. Infalling gas may first collide not only with itself but with an accretion disk of swirling material surrounding the black hole. The result may be a microquasar that glows across the electromagnetic spectrum and produces powerful jets that expel much of the infalling matter back into the cosmos at near light speed before it can even approach the black hole's event horizon. Confirmation that black hole jets may create expanding shells has come recently from the discovery of shells surrounding Cygnus X-1. Pictured above on the upper right is one such shell quite possibly created by the jet of microquasar and black hole candidate Cygnus X-1. Rolling your cursor over the image will bring up an annotated version. The physical processes that create the black hole jets is a topic that continues to be researched.

Tomorrow's picture: galaxy chain

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