Hubble Sees Magestic Magnetic Structure in Erupting Galaxy
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope image of galaxy NGC 1275 reveals
fine, thread-like filamentary structures in the gas surrounding the
galaxy. The red filaments are composed of cool gas being suspended by a
magnetic field, and are surrounded by the 100-million-degree Fahrenheit
hot gas in the center of the Perseus galaxy cluster.
The filaments are dramatic markers of the feedback process through
which energy is transferred from a central, supermassive black hole to
the surrounding gas. The filaments originate when cool gas is
transported from the center of the galaxy by radio bubbles that rise in
the hot interstellar gas.
Energetic activity of gas swirling near the black hole blows bubbles
of material into the surrounding galaxy cluster. Long gaseous filaments
stretch out beyond the galaxy, into the X-ray–emitting gas that
fills the cluster.
These filaments are the only visible-light manifestation of the
intricate relationship between the central black hole and the
surrounding cluster gas. They provide important clues about how giant
black holes affect their surrounding environment.
Astronomers have resolved individual threads of gas which make up the
filaments. The amount of gas contained in a typical thread is around one
million times the mass of our own Sun. They are only 200 light-years
wide, are often very straight, and extend for up to 20,000 light-years.
The filaments are formed when cold gas from the core of the galaxy is
dragged out in the wake of the rising bubbles blown by the black hole.
At a distance of 230 million light-years, NGC 1275 is one of the
closest giant elliptical galaxies and lies at the center of the Perseus
cluster of galaxies.
NGC 1275 was photographed in July and August 2006 with the Advanced
Camera for Surveys in three broadband filters that separated blue, green
and red light from the galaxy.
Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble
Acknowledgment: A. Fabian (Institute of Astronomy, University of