Photo Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/ CfA/D.Evans et al.; Optical/UV: NASA/ STScI; Radio: NSF/VLA/CfA/D.Evans et al., STFC/JBO/MERLIN
Is this two jellyfish locked in an epic life or death struggle? Or maybe it’s a UFO coming in to land in a field late one night. More likely, it’s got something to do with supernovas, right? Give it your best guess, then scroll down for the answer.
Don’t peek at the answer until you’ve given this a good try! Then, scroll down a bit and the truth will be revealed to you.
Actually, this is an epic space battle that has been going on for the past million years! The super massive black hole at the center of the larger galaxy (the pink blob on the lower left) is blasting its companion galaxy (the other pink blob) with a jet of radiation (the blue streak). Astronomers have named this space bully the “Death Star Galaxy.” The victim has a super massive black hole, too, but it doesn’t have a jet to aim back at its attacker. What’s so dangerous about black hole jets? They’re full of high-energy X-rays and gamma rays, which could rip apart the atmospheres of any planets unlucky enough to lie in the path of destruction. “We’ve seen many jets produced by black holes, but this is the first time we’ve seen one punch into another galaxy like we’re seeing here,” said Dan Evans, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “This jet could be causing all sorts of problems for the smaller galaxy it is pummeling.” This attack may not be all bad news, though. The jet could possibly leave a streak of new stars and planets in its wake.