The jet from a black hole at the center of a galaxy (lower left) strikes the edge of another galaxy (upper right), the first time such an interaction has been found.
The jet from a black hole at the center of a galaxy (lower left) strikes the edge of another galaxy (upper right), the first time such an interaction has been found. NASA/Daniel Evans
NASA observatories have discovered a fight brewing in a galaxy far, far away. It seems a black hole is pummeling a small, nearby star cluster with a jet of highly charged radiation.
Daniel Evans with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics talks with Melissa Block about the cosmic assault.
Striking pictures combine images from across the electromagnetic spectrum — from radio, to optical, all the way up to X-ray wavelenths — to show the never-before-witnessed galactic act of violence, Evans says.
"What we're looking at is a really extraordinary act of violence by a black hole," he says. "We can see that a very powerful jet of particles is being ejected from a supermassive black hole in the center of a distant galaxy, and there's an unfortunate neighboring galaxy that has moved directly into its line of fire. Not only does this cause the jet to be significantly disrupted, but it may actually have disastrous consequences for any Earthlike planets that happen to lie in its path."