Plasma Jets in 4C12.50

A combination of Hubble and VLBI data of the galaxy 4C12.50 showing the plasma jet (inset is a close up).  Credit: optical: HST/STSci/Tadhunter et al.; radio: VLBI, Morganti et al. 2013

A combination of Hubble and VLBI data of the galaxy 4C12.50 showing the plasma jet (inset is a close up). Credit: optical: HST/STSci/Tadhunter et al.; radio: VLBI, Morganti et al. 2013

What can you do with a radio telescope as big as the Earth? You can look into the hearts of galaxies 1.5 to 2 BILLION light-years away and actually make out plasma jets from a supermassive black hole, like the one above called. 4C12.50.

Both the image and JIVE are described in this press release from the Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe (JIVE):

DWINGELOO, The Netherlands (5 September 2013) – The jets which are shot away into space by the supermassive black hole in the centre of a galaxy, clear gas away from the galaxy. The first clear evidence of this was obtained by a team led by Raffaella Morganti (ASTRON, University of Groningen). The results will be published in Science on the 6th of September.

Astronomers have been puzzled by the fact that many galaxies in the Universe seem to be depleted of their gas and are therefore unable to form any new stars. Fast outflows of gas have been observed in the past, but the mechanism driving these outflows was not understood. The suspicion that the powerful plasma jets that are shot into space by the central supermassive black hole are responsible for the expulsion of the gas has now been confirmed.
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