Picture of the Day

VLA makes first direct image of key feature of powerful radio galaxies

Astronomers used the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) to make the first direct image of a dusty, doughnut-shaped feature surrounding the supermassive black hole at the core of one of the most powerful radio galaxies in the universe -- a feature first postulated by theorists nearly four decades ago as an essential part of such objects. The scientists studied Cygnus A, a galaxy some 760 million light-years from Earth. The galaxy harbors a black hole at its core that is 2.5 billion times more massive than the sun. As the black hole's powerful gravitational pull draws in surrounding material, it also propels super-fast jets of material traveling outward at nearly the speed of light, producing spectacular "lobes" of bright radio emission. Shown here: An artist's conception of the dusty, doughnut-shaped object surrounding the supermassive black hole; disk of material orbiting the black hole; and jets of material ejected by the disk, at the center of a galaxy.

Visit Website | Image credit: Bill Saxton/NRAO/AUI/NSF