And in Other News from Outer Space …


Astronomers report that the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy (known as Sgr A*) is becoming more active. The black hole’s output varies a little across the electromagnetic spectrum on a daily basis, but over the last few years, Sgr A*’s X-ray flares have become more energetic.

Beowulf Shaeffer was unavailable for comment.

Henize 2-10


A dwarf starburst galaxy about 30 million light years from Earth.Henize 2-10 is a dwarf galaxy, and it is the first dwarf galaxy ever discovered to contain a supermassive black hole at its center. This was surprising because the black hole is about one quarter of the size of the one at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. However, Henize 2-10 is only about1/1,000th the size of the Milky Way..

This image combines x-ray (Chandra), visible light (Hubble), and radio telescope (Very Large Array) views.

Image Credit: NASA / NRAO

NGC 613


A spiral galaxy’s brights and darksNGC 613 is a barred spiral galaxy about 65 million light-years away in the constellation of The Sculptor. It’s core looks bright and uniformly white in this image as a result of the combined light shining from the high concentration of stars packed into the core, but a massive black hole lurks at the center of this brilliance. Its mass is estimated at about 10 times that of the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole, and it is consuming stars, gas, and dust. As matter descends into the black hole’s, it radiates energy, but when looking at the galaxy in the optical and infrared wavelengths used to take this image, there is no trace of its dark heart.

Image Credit: ESA / NASA

Hercules A


Hercules AHercules A, also known as 3C 348, lies around two billion light-years away. It is one of the brightest sources of radio emission outside our Galaxy. It’s the bright object at the middle of the frame, an elliptical galaxy. As seen in visible light by the Hubble Space Telescope it appears floating serenely in the inky blackness of space, but adding data from a radio telescope radically transforms the image. Jets of material can be seen billowing outwards from the galaxy when viewed at radio frequencies—jets that are completely undetectable in visible light. The image above combines data from the Very Large Array radio observatory in New Mexico with data from Hubble‘s Wide Field Camera 3.

The two jets are composed of hot, high-energy plasma that has been flung from Hercules A by a supermassive black hole lurking at the galaxy’s core. This black hole is roughly 2.5 billion times the mass of the Sun. That’s about a thousand times more massive than the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way.

Hercules A’s black hole accelerates the ejected material to nearly the speed of light, sending it flying out into intergalactic space. Eventually, the highly focused jets lose energy, slowing down and spreading out to form cloud-like blobs The multiple bright rings and knots seen within these blobs suggest that the black hole has sent out successive bursts of material. The jets stretch for around 1.5 million light-years, around 15 times the size of the Milky Way.

Image Credit: NASA / ESA / VLA