Galactic ‘super-volcano’ at heart of distant galaxy erupts

By DAILY MAIL REPORTER
Last updated at 11:27 AM on 23rd August 2010

Erupting in a blinding display of colours and lights this image shows a galactic ‘super-volcano’ as it explodes 50 million light years away from Earth.

The rare event was spotted taking place in the massive M87 galaxy, which lies at the centre of the Virgo cluster, which contains thousands of galaxies.

It was spotted by astronomers analysing NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and a giant land-based radio tele4scop called the Very Large Array (VLA), which is based in New Mexico.

The eruption of a galactic super-volcano in the massive galaxy M87

The eruption of a galactic super-volcano in the massive galaxy M87

M87 is filled with hot gas glowing in X-ray light – shown here in blue – that is detected by Chandra.

As this gas cools, it can fall toward the galaxy’s centre where it should continue to cool even faster and form new stars.

However, radio observations with the VLA (red-orange) suggest that in M87 jets of very energetic particles produced by a black hole are interrupting this process.

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

This composite image shows the different parts of the eruption including the shockwaves and the supermassive black hole at the galaxy's centre

This composite image shows the different parts of the eruption including the shockwaves and the supermassive black hole at the galaxy’s centre

Nasa scientists say that M87’s eruption is very similar to that of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland earlier this year.

During the Eyjafjallajokull eruption pockets of hot gas blasted through the surface of the lava, generating shock waves that can be seen passing through the grey smoke of the volcano.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1305391/Galactic-super-volcano-heart-distant-galaxy-erupts.html#ixzz0xe3hxn6G

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