XMM-Newton EPIC-PN image of Pictor A
Credit: Paola Grandi et al., 2003, The Astrophysical Journal, vol. 586, pg. 123

A Smoking Gun

Voracious supermassive black holes at the center of certain galaxies gobble matter from their surrounds and spew out fast streams of high energy particles for millions of parsecs. These jets have been well studied in radio wavelengths, but their X-ray and other high energy emission is less well observed. But the Chandra and XMM-Newton X-ray observatories are enabling astronomers to take detailed pictures of galactic jets in X-rays, like the image above of the active galaxy Pictor A, taken with the EPIC-PN camera on XMM-Newton. The X-ray emission from the galactic nucleus dominates the center of this false-color image. A narrow jet, ending in a bright knot, can be seen clearly to the right of the galactic nucleus, and a fainter counter jet has been identified to the left. This image and others like it are enabling astronomers to determine the physical mechanisms by which X-rays can be produced in these "radio" jets and they can help astronomers determine the total amount of energy funnelled into the jet by the central black hole.

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Each week the HEASARC brings you new, exciting and beautiful images from X-ray and Gamma ray astronomy. Check back each week and be sure to check out the HEAPOW archive!

Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified March 10, 2003