Black hole outflows from Centaurus A detected with APEX

January 28, 2009
Colour composite image of Centaurus A, revealing the lobes and jets emanating from the active galaxy’s central black hole. This is a composite of images obtained with three instruments, operating at very different wavelengths. The 870-micron submillimetre data, from LABOCA on APEX, are shown in orange. X-ray data from the Chandra X-ray Observatory are shown in blue. Visible light data from the Wide Field Imager (WFI) on the MPG/ESO 2.2 m telescope located at La Silla, Chile, show the background stars and the galaxy’s characteristic dust lane in close to "true colour". Credit: ESO/WFI (Optical); MPIfR/ESO/APEX/A.Weiss et al. (Submillimetre); NASA/CXC/CfA/R.Kraft et al. (X-ray)

(PhysOrg.com) -- Astronomers have a new insight into the active galaxy Centaurus A (NGC 5128), as the jets and lobes emanating from the central black hole have been imaged at submillimetre wavelengths for the first time. The new data, from the Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) telescope in Chile, which is operated by ESO, have been combined with visible and X-ray wavelengths to produce this striking new image.

Centaurus A is our nearest giant galaxy, at a distance of about 13 million light-years in the southern constellation of Centaurus. It is an elliptical galaxy, currently merging with a companion spiral galaxy, resulting in areas of intense star formation and making it one of the most spectacular objects in the sky. Centaurus A hosts a very active and highly luminous central region, caused by the presence of a supermassive black hole, and is the source of strong radio and X-ray emission.

In the image, we see the dust ring encircling the giant galaxy, and the fast-moving radio jets ejected from the galaxy centre, signatures of the supermassive black hole at the heart of Centaurus A. In submillimetre light, we see not only the heat glow from the central dust disc, but also the emission from the central radio source and - for the first time in the submillimetre - the inner radio lobes north and south of the disc. Measurements of this emission, which occurs when fast-moving electrons spiral around the lines of a magnetic field, reveal that the material in the jet is travelling at approximately half the speed of light. In the X-ray emission, we see the jets emerging from the centre of Centaurus A and, to the lower right of the galaxy, the glow where the expanding lobe collides with the surrounding gas, creating a shockwave.

The Large APEX Bolometer Camera (LABOCA), built by the Max-Planck-Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR), is mounted on APEX, a 12-metre diameter submillimetre-wavelength telescope located on the 5000 m high plateau of Chajnantor in the Chilean Atacama region. APEX is a collaboration between the MPIfR, the Onsala Space Observatory and ESO. The telescope is based on a prototype antenna constructed for the next generation Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) project. Operation of APEX at Chajnantor is entrusted to ESO.

The APEX observations of Centaurus A are presented in the paper by Axel Weiss et al. 2008, LABOCA observations of nearby, active galaxies, A&A, 490, 77-86. arxiv.org/abs/0808.3358

Provided by ESO

Explore further: The wild early lives of today's most massive galaxies

Related Stories

The wild early lives of today's most massive galaxies

January 25, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- Using the APEX telescope, a team of astronomers has found the strongest link so far between the most powerful bursts of star formation in the early Universe, and the most massive galaxies found today. The ...

Virtual telescope expands to see black holes

April 21, 2015

Astronomers building an Earth-size virtual telescope capable of photographing the event horizon of the black hole at the center of our Milky Way have extended their instrument to the bottom of the Earth—the South Pole—thanks ...

Violent gamma-ray outbursts near supermassive black holes

May 23, 2014

(Phys.org) —Where in powerful jets of distant active galaxies—the mightiest and most energetic objects known—are the violent outbursts of high energy gamma-ray emission produced? Very close to the central supermassive ...

APEX telescope takes part in sharpest observation ever

July 18, 2012

(Phys.org) -- An international team of astronomers has observed the heart of a distant quasar with unprecedented sharpness, two million times finer than human vision. The observations, made by connecting the Atacama Pathfinder ...

Recommended for you

Rocky planet found orbiting habitable zone of nearest star

August 24, 2016

An international team of astronomers including Carnegie's Paul Butler has found clear evidence of a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, the closest star to our Solar System. The new world, designated Proxima b, orbits its cool ...

Test for damp ground at Mars streaks finds none

August 24, 2016

Seasonal dark streaks on Mars that have become one of the hottest topics in interplanetary research don't hold much water, according to the latest findings from a NASA spacecraft orbiting Mars.

China unveils 2020 Mars rover concept: report

August 24, 2016

China has unveiled illustrations of a Mars probe and rover it aims to send to the Red Planet at the end of the decade in a mission that faces "unprecedented" challenges, state media said on Wednesday.

What do aliens look like? The clue is in evolution

August 19, 2016

Speculating about what aliens look like has kept children, film producers and scientists amused for decades. If they exist, will extra terrestrials turn out to look similar to us, or might they take a form beyond our wildest ...

3 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Going
not rated yet Jan 28, 2009
There is currently (Jan 09) an excellent documentary on the National Geographic channel called " Cosmic Monsters" about galactic center massive black holes.

There is currently (Jan 09) an excellent documentary on the Discovery channel called " Cosmic Monsters" about galactic center massive black holes.
Going
not rated yet Jan 28, 2009
There is currently (Jan 09) an excellent documentary on the National Geographic channel called " Cosmic Monsters" about galactic center massive black holes.
See http://uk.youtube...BhEa-ypk&feature=related
Sophos
not rated yet Jan 29, 2009
Centaurus A is our nearest giant galaxy, at a distance of about 13 million light-years in the southern constellation of Centaurus. It is an elliptical galaxy, currently merging with a companion spiral galaxy,


Doesn't that mean 13 million years ago is was currently merging

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.