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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 9 April, 2003, 02:55 GMT 03:55 UK
Galactic collision in close-up
A powerful jet of electrically charged particles blasts through the heart of a galaxy.

Image: Dr Martin Hardcastle
Centaurus A: The galaxy is bottom right
It comes from the edge of a massive black hole at the centre of one of our neighbouring galaxies, Centaurus A.

Astronomers believe it is the most detailed view yet of what happens when the jet cannons into gas clouds or peculiar stars.

It seems to suddenly stop from a speed about half the speed of light, giving off intense X-rays in the process.

This is a newly discovered phenomenon - until recently it was thought only radio and light emissions were produced.

The image shows a combined radio (red) and X-ray (blue) map of the jet.

Key object

It was observed by British and US astronomers using the orbiting space observatory Chandra and the Very Large Array radio telescope in New Mexico.

The team, led by Dr Martin Hardcastle of the University of Bristol, believes the research could shed light on other, more distant, galaxies.

Centaurus A is 10 million light years away from our planet but is the nearest galaxy giving off radio radiation.

Dr Hardcastle said: "Because Cen A is the closest radio galaxy to us, and we can image its jet so clearly, it's a key object.

"We really need to understand it if we're going to understand any of the others."

The work will be presented at the UK/Ireland National Astronomy meeting in Dublin.

Image courtesy of Dr Martin Hardcastle/National Radio Astronomy Observatory/ Very Large Array and Nasa Chandra X-ray Observatory.

Scientists to 'see' black hole
14 Sep 00  |  Science/Nature
Impressive debut for Chandra
27 Aug 99  |  Science/Nature

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