Galaxy Crashes May Give Birth to Powerful Space Jets

Jun 8, 2015

by Calla Cofield

Powerful jets of material spewing from the edge of monster black holes may be more likely to arise where two galaxies have merged together, a new study suggests.

Like a cosmic version of Old Faithful (the famous Yellowstone geyser), some black holes at the center of galaxies will spew jets of material into space that stretch for thousands of light-years. You can see an illustration of what these gushing pillars look like in a video of the galaxy crash discovery.

Using data from the Hubble Space Telescope, new research suggests these jets are more likely to be found in galaxies that are the product of galaxy mergers. However, the authors of the research say merging two galaxies isn’t always a recipe for creating galactic jets.

In the study, scientists used the Hubble Space Telescope to look for the radio waves emitted by the massive jets that spew particles into space at nearly the speed of light. These jets are thought to be created by activity taking place near the edge of a supermassive black hole (and astronomers think most, if not all, galaxies in the universe have a supermassive black hole at their center).

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