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.

2011 May 31
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Jets from Unusual Galaxy Centaurus A
Credit: ESO/WFI (visible); MPIfR/ESO/APEX/A. Weiss et al. (microwave); NASA/CXC/CfA/R. Kraft et al. (X-ray); Inset: NASA/TANAMI/C. Müller et al. (radio)

Explanation: Jets of streaming plasma expelled by the central black hole of a massive spiral galaxy light up this composite image of Centaurus A. The jets emanating from Cen A are over a million light years long. Exactly how the central black hole expels infalling matter is still unknown. After clearing the galaxy, however, the jets inflate large radio bubbles that likely glow for millions of years. If excited by a passing front, radio bubbles can even light up again after a billion years. X-ray light is depicted in the above composite image in blue, while microwave light is false-colored orange. The inset image in radio light shows newly imaged, never seen-before details of the innermost light year of the central jet.

Tomorrow's picture: moving earth

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