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Exotic Physics of Radio Galaxy on Display

space, hubble, very large array
(Image credit: NASA, ESA, S. Baum and C. O'Dea (RIT), R. Perley and W. Cotton (NRAO/AUI/NSF), and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA))

This Research in Action article was provided to LiveScience in partnership with the National Science Foundation.

Powerful jets of subatomic particles moving at nearly the speed of light blast half a million light-years outward from the radio galaxy Hercules A, in this spectacular image produced by two of astronomy's most advanced tools — the newly refurbished Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico and the Hubble Space Telescope.

The yellowish elliptical galaxy in the center of the image, seen in visible light by Hubble, is some 2 billion light-years from Earth. Unseen in visible light, but revealed by the VLA, are the jets, reddish in this image, powered by the tremendous gravitational energy of a black hole at the galaxy's center. The black hole is more than 1,000 times more massive than the black hole at the center of our own Milky Way.

Combining the power of Hubble at visible wavelengths and the VLA at radio wavelengths provides scientists with a more complete picture of the galaxy and the exotic physics that makes it one of the most prominent radio-emitting objects in the sky.

Editor's Note: Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. See the Research in Action archive.