Hubble Pinpoints Source of Mysterious Outbursts

Hubble Pinpoints Source of Mysterious Outbursts

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Fast Facts
News release ID: STScI-2011-10
Release Date: Apr 7, 2011
Image Use: Copyright
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NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has pinpointed the source of one of the most puzzling blasts of high-energy radiation ever observed. It is at the very center of a small, distant galaxy, which appears to be sending a beam of radiation directly toward Earth.

The 3.8-billion-light-year-distant galaxy appears as a bright blob at the center of the Hubble picture.

This observation may support the idea that a supermassive black hole at the core of the galaxy has gravitationally torn apart and swallowed a bypassing star. As the star's gas falls onto the black hole, radiation is ejected along a narrow beam.

On March 28, 2011, NASA's Swift satellite, which looks for transient X-rays and gamma rays, detected the first of a string of powerful bursts of high-energy radiation that has lasted for a week.

More Hubble observations are planned to see if the core changes brightness. An armada of ground- and space-based telescopes is also watching the object from X-ray through radio wavelengths. The Hubble observations were taken in visible and near-infrared light on April 4, 2011, with the Wide Field Camera 3. This Hubble image was taken in visible light.

Annotated Observations, Exotic, Gamma Ray Bursts, Hubble Telescope, Observations


NASA, ESA, and A. Fruchter (STScI)