Release 843 of 1,082

Fireworks Near a Black Hole in the Core of Seyfert Galaxy NGC 4151

Release date: Jun 9, 1997 12:45 PM (EDT)
Release type: American Astronomical Society Meeting

The Hubble telescope's imaging spectrograph simultaneously records, in unprecedented detail, the velocities of hundreds of gas knots streaming at hundreds of thousands of miles per hour from the nucleus of NGC 4151, thought to house a super-massive black hole. This is the first time the velocity structure in the heart of this object, or similar objects, has been mapped so vividly this close to its central black hole.

The heart of NGC 4151 was captured in visible light in the upper left picture. In the other images, Hubble's imaging spectrograph has zeroed in on the galaxy's active central region. The Hubble data clearly show that the some material in the galaxy's hub is rapidly moving towards us, while other matter rapidly receding from us. This information is strong evidence for the existence of a black hole, an extremely compact, dense object that feeds on material swirling around it.