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Image of the Day: Spectacular Jets of a Supermassive Black Hole Dwarf their Galaxy




The innocuous-looking galaxy, elliptical galaxy Hercules A,also known as 3C 348, has long been known as the brightest radio-emitting object in the constellation Hercules. Emitting nearly a billion times more power in radio wavelengths than our Sun, the galaxy is one of the brightest extragalactic radio sources in the entire sky created by spectacular jets powered by the gravitational energy of a super massive black hole in the core of the galaxy. 

Some two billion light-years away, the yellowish elliptical galaxy in the center of the image appears quite ordinary as seen by Hubble in visible wavelengths of light. The galaxy is roughly 1,000 times more massive than the Milky Way and harbors a 2.5-billion-solar-mass central black hole that is 1,000 times more massive than the black hole in the Milky Way.


But the innocuous-looking galaxy, also known as 3C 348, has long been known as the brightest radio-emitting object in the constellation Hercules. Emitting nearly a billion times more power in radio wavelengths than our Sun, the galaxy is one of the brightest extragalactic radio sources in the entire sky.

The VLA radio data reveal enormous, optically invisible jets that, at one-and-a-half million light-years wide, dwarf the visible galaxy from which they emerge. The jets are very-high-energy plasma beams, subatomic particles and magnetic fields shot at nearly the speed of light from the vicinity of the black hole. The outer portions of both jets show unusual ring-like structures suggesting a history of multiple outbursts from the super massive black hole at the center of the galaxy.

The innermost parts of the jets are not visible because of the extreme velocity of the material, which causes relativistic effects that beam the light away from us. Far from the galaxy, the jets become unstable and break up into the rings and wisps.*The entire radio source is surrounded by a very hot, X-ray-emitting cloud of gas, not seen in this optical-radio composite.

Hubble's view of the field also shows a companion elliptical galaxy very close to the center of the optical-radio source, which may be merging with the central galaxy. Several other elliptical and spiral galaxies that are visible in the Hubble data may be members of a cluster of galaxies.Hercules A is by far the brightest and most massive galaxy in the cluster.

The image at the top of the page illustrates the combined imaging power of two of astronomy's cutting-edge tools, the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3, and the recently upgraded Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope in New Mexico.

The Daily Galaxy via http://www1.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/science/hercules-a.html


It almost obvious that these huge crunchers must be the basis for the creation of something new, something important, what happens once matter falls in? What happens once it surpasses a certain threshold?

"agreeable to my personal sensibilities despite no indication whatsoever to the aforesaid effect" does NOT mean "almost obvious", DwarfGalaxy.

Not that my gut feeling is very different from yours. We just shouldn't confuse a layman enthusiast's unfounded gut feeling with the actual truth. That way lies the denial of evolution and the burning of witches at the stake. Let's not take that road; let's not even linger in the crossroads for too long.

It appears that the black hole's mass must be greater than the whole galaxy to produce results of this magnitude.

Almost obvious to me :), but then again these are just light impulsive comments...and english is not my native language, so I do the best I can :) sorry!

@Lolington Rofflewraithe, esq. What's wrong with burning witches? The only historical issue with this practice was the highly erroneous methods of *proving* that someone was in fact, a witch.

Besides all that, this galaxy is a perfect example of a Type III civilization technology affectionately known as a "camp fire".

it's always written "nearly the speed of light" when it comers to two things concerning BHs. 1. The event horizon spiral as it enters the event horizon is nearly the speed of light then matter disappears as it does achieve the speed of light and infinite mass as predicted by the E formula. 2. The jets emitted are also "nearly the speed of light", obviously, because that's the speed limit of mass in our universe...and they are thought to eminate from just above the event horizon where the spiral accretion action is also "nearly the speed of light".

As mass accelerates to speed C, it acquires more mass and time slows down proportionately. There is therefore a relationship or trade off of speed and mass and time. The faster something goes, the more mass it has at the expense of time which slows down for that mass as it achieves speeds nearer and nearer to C. This is an interesting relationship to say the least and I've never seen it presented this way before. Think about it... time gives itself to speed and mass or mass gives itself to speed and time...which ever you wish to say it.

As a BH spins, one in fact spins at half of C (I guess they're talking about the surface speed of the event horizon, they weren't specific) then due to the relativistic speed, the BH must be gaining mass and losing time, right? Half of C doesn't result in as much loss of time and gain of mass as would .9 C, it's not a linear function of course, it's hyperbolic as C is approached much as gravity is hyperbolic as proximity to a large object is decreased, likewise magnetism. So hyperbolic relationships are the rule. Someday man just might achieve intelligence enough to concept all this...as of now, he can not.

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