Image Gallery

M84: Huge 'Russian Dolls' Surrounding a Galaxy
11.19.08
 
M84, a massive elliptical galaxy in the Virgo Cluster

This composite image shows M84, a massive elliptical galaxy in the Virgo Cluster, about 55 million light years from Earth. Hot gas around M84 is shown in a Chandra X-ray Observatory image in blue and a radio image from the Very Large Array is shown in red. A background image from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey is shown in yellow and white.

A number of bubbles are visible in the hot gas, outlined with blue X-ray emission. These bubbles were blown by relativistic particles generated by the central supermassive black hole in M84. These particles travel outwards in the form of a two-sided jet. Because smaller bubbles are found inside large bubbles, the impression given by the image is that of Russian dolls, where smaller dolls can be found inside large ones. These nested bubbles provide clear evidence for repeated outbursts from the central black hole.

Supercomputer simulations of the interaction of supermassive black holes with surrounding gas can explain how such "Russian dolls" are created. The simulations reveal the nested bubbles associated with the termination of the jet and their complex interaction with the surrounding gas, somewhat similar to the effervescent bubbles in a glass of champagne.

Credit: X-ray (NASA/CXC/MPE/A.Finoguenov et al.); Radio (NSF/NRAO/VLA/ESO/R.A.Laing et al); Optical (SDSS)

> Read more/access larger images