Astronomy Picture of the Day

NGC 4696: Energy from a Black Hole

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NGC 4696: Energy from a Black Hole


In many cosmic environments,
when material falls toward
a black hole energy is produced as some of the matter is
blasted back out in jets.

In fact, such black hole "engines" appear to be the most
efficient in the Universe, at least on a galactic scale.

composite image

illustrates one example of an
elliptical galaxy with an efficient
black hole engine, NGC 4696.

The large galaxy is the brightest member of the
galaxy cluster, some 150 million light-years away.

NGC 4696

in x-rays (red) astronomers
can measure the rate at which infalling matter fuels the
supermassive black hole and compare
it to the energy output in the jets to
produce giant radio emitting bubbles.

The bubbles, shown here in blue, are about 10,000
light-years across.

The results confirm
that the process is much more efficient
than producing energy through
- not to mention
using fossil fuels.

Astronomers also suggest that as the black hole
pumps out energy and heats the surrounding gas, star formation
is ultimately shut off, limiting the size of large galaxies like
NGC 4696.

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