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News Release 224 of 297

September 10, 1997 09:00 AM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-1997-28

Hubble Finds a Bare Black Hole Pouring Out Light

September 10, 1997: Probing the heart of the active galaxy NGC 6251, the Hubble telescope has provided a never-before-seen view of a warped disk or ring of dust caught in a blazing torrent of ultraviolet light from a suspected massive black hole.

This discovery suggests that the environments around black holes may be more varied than thought previously and may provide a new link in the evolution of black holes in the centers of galaxies. This composite picture of the galaxy's core of the galaxy combines visible- and ultraviolet-light observations. While the visible-light image shows a dark dust disk, the ultraviolet image [color-coded blue] reveals a bright feature along one side of the disk. Because Hubble sees ultraviolet light reflected from only one side of the disk, astronomers conclude it must be warped like the brim of a hat. The bright white spot at the image's center is light from the vicinity of the black hole, which is illuminating the disk.

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Credit: Philippe Crane (European Southern Observatory) and NASA