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News Release Archive:

News Release 184 of 293

July 6, 2000 01:00 AM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-2000-20

A Cosmic Searchlight

A Hubble Heritage Release

July 6, 2000: Streaming out from the center of the galaxy M87 like a cosmic searchlight is one of nature's most amazing phenomena, a black-hole-powered jet of electrons and other sub-atomic particles traveling at nearly the speed of light. In this Hubble telescope image, the blue jet contrasts with the yellow glow from the combined light of billions of unseen stars and the yellow, point-like clusters of stars that make up this galaxy. Lying at the center of M87, the monstrous black hole has swallowed up matter equal to 2 billion times our Sun's mass. M87 is 50 million light-years from Earth.


Q & A: Understanding the Discovery

  1. 1. How does the black hole create the jet?


  2. The jet originates in the disk of superheated gas swirling around this black hole and is propelled and concentrated by the intense, twisted magnetic fields trapped within this matter. The light we see is produced by electrons twisting along magnetic field lines in the jet, a process known as synchrotron radiation, which gives the jet its bluish tint.

 
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Credit: NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)