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Black Hole Jerked Around Twice

For Release: July 21, 2010

CXC

4C+00.58
Credit: X-ray (NASA/CXC/UMD/Hodges-Kluck et al): Radio (NSF/NRAO/VLA/UMD/Hodges-Kluck et al); Optical (SDSS)
Press Image and Caption

Scientists have found evidence that a giant black hole has been jerked around twice, causing its spin axis to point in a different direction from before. This discovery, made with new data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, might explain several mysterious-looking objects found throughout the Universe.

The axis of the spinning black hole is thought to have moved, but not the black hole itself, so this result differs from recently published work on recoiling black holes.

"We think this is the best evidence ever seen for a black hole having been jerked around like this," said Edmund Hodges-Kluck of the University of Maryland. "We're not exactly sure what caused this behavior, but it was probably triggered by a collision between two galaxies."

A team of astronomers used Chandra for a long observation of a galaxy known as 4C+00.58, which is located about 780 million light years from Earth. Like most galaxies, 4C+00.58 contains a supermassive black hole at its center, but this one is actively pulling in copious quantities of gas. Gas swirling toward the black hole forms a disk around the black hole. Twisted magnetic fields in the disk generate strong electromagnetic forces that propel some of the gas away from the disk at high speed, producing radio jets.

A radio image of this galaxy shows a bright pair of jets pointing from left to right and a fainter, more distant line of radio emission running in a different direction. More specifically, 4C+00.58 belongs to a class of "X-shaped" galaxies, so called because of the outline of their radio emission.

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