Black Hole Spills a Kaleidoscope of Color

Chandra_326_1024

chandra_326 June 20th, 2006

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Yale Univ.

This image from NASA's Hubble, Chandra and Spitzer space telescopes shows a giant jet of particles that has been shot out from the vicinity of a type of supermassive black hole called a quasar. The jet is enormous, stretching across more than 100,000 light-years of space - a size comparable to our own Milky Way galaxy.

Quasars are among the brightest objects in the universe. They consist of supermassive black holes surrounded by turbulent material, which is being heated up as it is dragged toward the black hole. This hot material glows brilliantly, and some of it gets blown off into space in the form of powerful jets.

The jet pictured here is streaming out from the first known quasar, called 3C273, discovered in 1963. A kaleidoscope of colors represents the jet's assorted light waves. X-rays, detected by Chandra, are the highest-energy light in the image are seen at far left in blue (the black hole itself is well to the left of the image). Moving from left to right, the light diminishes in energy, and wavelengths increase in size. Visible light recorded by Hubble is displayed in green, and infrared light caught by Spitzer is red. Areas where visible and infrared light overlap appear as yellow.

Astronomers were able to use these data to help solve the mystery of how light is produced in quasar jets. Light is created in a few very different ways. For example, the Sun generates most of its light via a process called fusion, in which hydrogen atoms are combined, causing an explosion of light. In the case of this jet, even the most energetic light was unexpectedly found to be the result of charged particles spiraling through a magnetic field, a process known as synchrotron radiation.

Image Source: http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2006/3c273/

Curator: Chandra X-ray Observatory, Cambridge, MA, USA

Image Use Policy: http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/image_use.html

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Image Details

Image Type
Observation
Object Name
3C273
Subject - Local Universe
Galaxy > Activity > AGN > Quasar

Distance

Universescale3
3,000,000,000 light years

Position Details

Position (ICRS)
RA = 12h 29m 6.7s
DEC = 2° 3’ 8.6”
Constellation
Virgo

Color Mapping

  Telescope Spectral Band Wavelength
Arrow_left_blue Chandra (ACIS) X-ray -
Arrow_left_green Hubble (ACS) Optical -
Arrow_left_red Spitzer (IRAC) Infrared -
Chandra_326_1280
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ID
326
Subject Category
C.5.3.2.1  
Subject Name
3C273
Credits
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Yale Univ.
Release Date
2006-06-20
Lightyears
3,000,000,000
Redshift
3,000,000,000
Reference Url
http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2006/3c273/
Type
Observation
Image Quality
Good
Distance Notes
Facility
Chandra, Hubble, Spitzer
Instrument
ACIS, ACS, IRAC
Color Assignment
Blue, Green, Red
Band
X-ray, Optical, Infrared
Bandpass
Central Wavelength
Start Time
Integration Time
Dataset ID
Notes
Coordinate Frame
ICRS
Equinox
2000.0
Reference Value
187.277917, 2.052389
Reference Dimension
Reference Pixel
Scale
Rotation
Coordinate System Projection:
Quality
Position
FITS Header
Notes
Creator (Curator)
Chandra X-ray Observatory
URL
http://chandra.harvard.edu
Name
Chandra X-ray Observatory Center
Email
cxcpub@cfa.harvard.edu
Telephone
617.496.7941
Address
60 Garden St.
City
Cambridge
State/Province
MA
Postal Code
02138
Country
USA
Rights
http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/image_use.html
Publisher
Chandra X-ray Observatory Center
Publisher ID
chandra
Resource ID
3c273_jet.tif
Metadata Date
2013-09-20T11:22:25-04:00
Metadata Version
1.2
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Detailed color mapping information coming soon...

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Universescalefull
3,000,000,000 light years