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Hubble’s View of a Supermassive Black Hole’s 5,000-Light-Year-Long Jet

16 May 2020, 21:49 UTC
Hubble’s View of a Supermassive Black Hole’s 5,000-Light-Year-Long Jet
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Relativistic jet in the supergiant elliptical galaxy M87. Credit: NASA/ESA, STScI. Observation PI: John A. Biretta. Color processing by Jason Major.
Here’s a view of the twisted 5,000 light-year-long relativistic jet blasting into space from the supermassive black hole at the heart of the elliptical galaxy Messier 87 (M87), located 53 million light-years away in the constellation Virgo. The data comprising this image were acquired by the Hubble Space Telescope in January 2017 in optical and near-infrared wavelengths.
If you recall, the supermassive black hole in M87 is also the one whose “shadow” was famously revealed to the world in April 2019 by the Event Horizon Telescope team. This cosmic behemoth is estimated to contain the equivalent mass of 6.5 billion of our Suns.
What’s a relativistic jet, you ask, and how can it be coming out of a black hole if nothing—not even light—is supposed to be able to do that? Read on…
One of the questions I often get is “if a black hole is supposed to swallow up everything and not even light escapes, then how can jets of anything come out of it?” The thing is, the material in jets from black holes isn’t coming from ...

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