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Telescope detects black hole outflows from active galaxy

Colour composite image of Centaurus A, revealing the lobes and jets emanating from the active galaxy's central black hole. ESO image

LONDON (BNS): The Atacama Pathfinder Experiment (APEX) telescope in Chile has helped astronomers delve into the insights of the active galaxy Centaurus A (NGC 5128). For the first time, the APEX has helped clicking images at sub-millimetre wavelengths at the jets and lobes emanating from the central black hole.

Astronomers said that Centaurus A is the nearest giant galaxy, at a distance of about 13 million light-years in the southern constellation of Centaurus. It is an elliptical galaxy, currently merging with a companion spiral galaxy, resulting in areas of intense star formation and making it one of the most spectacular objects in the sky. They said that Centaurus A hosts a very active and highly luminous central region, caused by the presence of a super-massive black hole, and is the source of strong radio and X-ray emission.

Astronomers said that in the image, one can see the dust ring encircling the giant galaxy, and the fast-moving radio jets ejecting from the galaxy centre, signatures of the super-massive black hole at the heart of Centaurus A. “In sub-millimetre light, we see not only the heat glow from the central dust disc, but also the emission from the central radio source and – for the first time in the sub-millimetre – the inner radio lobes north and south of the disc. Measurements of this emission, which occurs when fast-moving electrons spiral around the lines of a magnetic field, reveal that the material in the jet is travelling at approximately half the speed of light. In the X-ray emission, we see the jets emerging from the centre of Centaurus A and, to the lower right of the galaxy, the glow where the expanding lobe collides with the surrounding gas, creating a shockwave,” explained the astronomers.

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