Wednesday, May 03, 2023

Centaurus A Galaxy with Black Hole Shines | NASA Chandra & IXPE

Centaurus A Galaxy with Black Hole Shines | NASA Chandra & IXPE

The galaxy Centaurus A (Cen A) shines bright in this image combining data from multiple observatories. In the center of this galaxy is a supermassive black hole feeding off the gas and dust encircling it, and large jets of high-energy particles and other material spewing out. The jet shown at the upper left of this image extends for about 13,000 light-years away from the black hole. Also visible is a dust lane, wrapping around the middle of the galaxy, which may have resulted from a collision with a smaller galaxy millions of years ago. Cen A is found 12 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Centaurus and represents the fifth brightest galaxy in the sky.

Colors in this image have been chosen to reflect the sources of data. Blue shows x-ray light captured by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, orange represents x-rays detected by NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) satellite, and optical light seen by the European Southern Observatory in Chile is colored white and gray.

Cen A has been studied extensively since the launch of Chandra in 1999. With IXPE, which launched in 2021, scientists can understand the mysteries of this object in a new way. IXPE is specialized to look at a property of x-ray light called polarization, which relates to the organization of electromagnetic waves. This specialized measurement is helping scientists study how particles become accelerated to high energies and speeds—nearly the speed of light—at extreme cosmic objects like this one.

At Cen A, researchers using IXPE seek to understand what causes the x-ray emission in the jets. So far, scientists have not detected x-ray polarization at Cen A, indicating that particles much heavier than electrons, such as protons, are not producing the x-rays. More insights are to come as scientists analyze the data.

Learn more about IXPE here:

Learn more about Chandra here:

Image Credit: X-ray: (IXPE): NASA/MSFC/IXPE/S. Ehlert et al.; (Chandra): NASA/CXC/SAO; Optical: ESO/WFI; Image Processing: NASA/CXC/SAO/J.Schmidt

Release Date: May 2, 2023

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