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News Release 26 of 79

December 17, 2007 01:00 PM (EST)

News Release Number: STScI-2007-37

"Death Star" Galaxy Black Hole Fires at Neighboring Galaxy

December 17, 2007: A powerful jet from a supermassive black hole is blasting a nearby galaxy, according to new data from NASA observatories. This never-before witnessed galactic violence may have a profound effect on planets in the jet's path and trigger a burst of star formation in its destructive wake. Known as 3C 321, the system contains two galaxies in orbit around each other. Data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory show both galaxies contain supermassive black holes at their centers, but the larger galaxy has a jet emanating from the vicinity of its black hole. The smaller galaxy apparently has swung into the path of this jet. This "death star galaxy" was discovered through the combined efforts of both space and ground-based telescopes. NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, Hubble Space Telescope, and Spitzer Space Telescope were part of the effort. The Very Large Array (VLA) in Socorro, N.M., and the Multi-Element Radio Linked Interferometer Network (MERLIN) telescopes in the United Kingdom also were needed for the finding.

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Credit: NASA, ESA, and D. Evans (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)