radiation jet blasts neighboring star cluster
December 18, 2007
As reported by Seth Borenstein, Associated Press
The latest act of senseless violence caught on tape is cosmic in scope:
A black hole in a "death star galaxy" blasting a neighboring
galaxy with a deadly jet of radiation and energy.
A fleet of space and ground telescopes have captured images of this cosmic
violence, which people have never witnessed before, according to a new
study released by NASA.
"It's like a bully, a black-hole bully punching the nose of a passing
galaxy," said astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the
Hayden Planetarium in New York, who wasn't involved in the research.
The telescope images show the bully galaxy shooting a stream of deadly
radiation particles into the lower section of the other galaxy, which
is about one-tenth its size. Both are about 8.2 billion trillion miles
from here, orbiting around each other.
The larger galaxy has a multi-digit name but is called the "death
star galaxy: by one of the researchers who discovered the galactic bullying,
Daniel Evans of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
Tens of millions of stars, including those with orbiting planets, are
likely in the path of the deadly jet, said study co-author Martin Hardcastle
of the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom.
If Earth were in the way, and it's not, the high energy particles and
radiation of the jet would in a matter of months strip away the planet's
protective ozone layer and compress the protective magnetosphere, said
Evans. That would then allow the sun and jet itself to bombard the planet
with high-energy particles.
And what would that do to life on the planet?
"Decompose it," Tyson said.
"Sterilize it," Evans piped in.
The jet attack is relatively new, in deep space time. Hardcastle estimates
it's no more than 1 million years old and can stretch on for another 10
to 100 million years.
"A truly extraordinary act of violence," Evans said. "The
jet violently slams into that lower half of the neighboring galaxy after
which the jet dramatically twists and bends."
The good news is that eventually an area of hot gas that gets hit and
compressed by this mysterious jet, astronomers are still baffled by what's
in it and how it works, over millions and billions of years can from stars,