April 9th, 2008

galaxy M51

Astro-Image of the Day: quasar jets

This cool astro-image shows massive jets firing out of a BAL quasar. BAL stands for "broad absorption line"; that is, the quasar is surrounded by a thick cloud of gas and dust that absorbs a lot of light emissions, creating absorption lines in spectrographs of the object.

Click the image to see the story.

So what creates these jets and gas cloud? Why, a massive black hole, that's what. As matter falls into the black hole, it goes into fast orbit, creating an accretion disk: the stuff that creates the absorption cloud. Then, as matter finally falls through the event horizon into the black hole per se, mighty x-ray jets fire out from the poles.

Viola! Astronomical drama.