Eruption of galactic ’super-volcano’ caught in action

August 20th, 2010 - 4:19 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Aug 20 (ANI): NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and NSF’s Very Large Array have witnessed a galactic “super-volcano” that is erupting and blasting gas outwards.

The galactic volcano in the massive galaxy M87 is being driven by a giant black hole in the galaxy’s centre and preventing hundreds of millions of new stars from forming.

M87’s close proximity to the Earth has made it an excellent subject for investigations of how a massive black hole impacts its environment.

“And it doesn’t stop there. The black hole’s reach extends ever farther into the entire cluster, similar to how one small volcano can affect practically an entire hemisphere on Earth,” said Norbert Werner.

As the hot gas around M87 cools, it should be able to form new stars, but jets of very energetic particles produced by the black hole interrupt this process.

These jets lift up the relatively cool gas near the center of the galaxy and produce shock waves in the galaxy’s atmosphere because of their supersonic speed.

In the analogy with Eyjafjallajokull, the energetic particles produced in the vicinity of the black hole rise through the X-ray emitting atmosphere of the cluster, lifting up the coolest gas near the center of M87 in their wake, much like the hot volcanic gases drag up the clouds of dark ash.

“This analogy shows that even though astronomical phenomena can occur in exotic settings and over vast scales, the physics can be very similar to events on Earth,” said co-author Aurora Simionescu. (ANI)

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