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.

November 24, 1997
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Jet Near Light Speed
Credit: P. Hughes (UMich), C. Duncan (BGSU)

Explanation: Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity says that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. Jets of protons and electrons that shoot away from objects such as quasars and black holes appear to travel at speeds approaching this maximum speed, though. Such jets carry tremendous energy and can ram straight through interstellar material. In the above frame from a computer simulation, a jet traveling only 98 percent of light speed rams and mixes with interstellar material. Even higher energy jets might well explain the structure seen around Cygnus A.

Tomorrow's picture: The Comet and the Galaxy

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
&: Michigan Tech. U.