Images by Date
Images by Category
Solar System
Stars
White Dwarfs
Supernovas
Neutron Stars
Black Holes
Milky Way Galaxy
Normal Galaxies
Quasars
Galaxy Clusters
Cosmology/Deep Field
Miscellaneous
Images by Interest
Space Scoop for Kids
Multiwavelength
Sky Map
Constellations
3D Wall
Photo Blog
Top Rated Images
Image Handouts
Desktops
High Res Prints
Fits Files
Image Tutorials
Photo Album Tutorial
False Color
Cosmic Distance
Look-Back Time
Scale & Distance
Angular Measurement
Images & Processing
AVM/Metadata
Getting Hard Copies
Image Use Policy
Web Shortcuts
Chandra Blog
RSS Feed
Chandra Mobile
Chronicle
Email Newsletter
News & Noteworthy
Image Use Policy
Questions & Answers
Glossary of Terms
Download Guide
Get Adobe Reader
More Information
Quasars & Active Galaxies
X-ray Astronomy Field Guide
Quasars & Active Galaxies
Questions and Answers
Quasars & Active Galaxies
Chandra Images
Quasars & Active Galaxies
Groups & Clusters of Galaxies
X-ray Astronomy Field Guide: Groups & Clusters of Galaxies
Questions and Answers: Groups & Clusters of Galaxies
Chandra Images: Groups & Clusters of Galaxies
Related Podcasts
Tour of RX J1131-1231
Download Image

More Information
Handout
Handout: html | pdf

More Images
Chandra X-ray Image of M87, Close-Up
(Credit: NASA/CXC/W. Forman et al.)

More Releases
M87
M87
(18 Aug 10)
M87
M87
(05 Aug 08)
M87
M87
(05 Oct 06)

Related Images
M87(Jet)
M87(Jet)
(26 Sep 01)
Perseus Cluster
Perseus Cluster
(09 Sep 03)
 Perseus A
Perseus A
(07 Jun 00)
Centaurus A
Centaurus A
(06 Aug 01)
Centaurus A Arcs
Centaurus A Arcs
(07 Aug 02)
M87 Core
M87 Core
(29 Oct 04)
M87:
Giant Galaxy's Violent Past Comes Into Focus


M87
Credit: NASA/CXC/W. Forman et al.

Two Chandra observations of the giant elliptical galaxy M87 were combined to make this long-exposure image.A central jet is surrounded by nearby bright arcs and dark cavities in the multimillion degree Celsius atmosphere of M87. Much further out, at a distance of about fifty thousand light years from the galaxy's center, faint rings can be seen and two spectacular plumes extend beyond the rings. These features, together with radio observations, are dramatic evidence that repetitive outbursts from the central supermassive black hole have been affecting the entire galaxy for a hundred million years or more. The faint horizontal streaks are instrumental artifacts that occur for bright sources.

The accompanying closeup shows the region surrounding the jet of high-energy particles in more detail. The jet is thought to be pointed at a small angle to the line of sight, out of the plane of the image. This jet may be only the latest in a series of jets that have been produced as magnetized gas spirals in a disk toward the supermassive black hole.

When a jet plows into the surrounding gas, a buoyant, magnetized bubble of high-energy particles is created, and an intense sound wave rushes ahead of the expanding bubble. These bubbles, which rise like hot air from a fire or explosion in the atmosphere, show up as bright regions in radio images and dark cavities in X-ray images. Bright X-ray arcs surrounding the cavities appear to be gas that has been swept up on rising, buoyant bubbles. An alternative interpretation is that the arcs are shock waves that surround the jet and are seen in projection.

A version of this long-exposure image that has been specially processed to bring out faint features in the outer region of the galaxy reveals two circular rings with radii of 45 thousand and 55 thousand light years, respectively. These features are likely sound waves produced by earlier explosions about 10 million and 14 million years ago, respectively in M87-time (M87 is 50 million light years from Earth).

The spectacular, curved X-ray plumes extending from the upper left to the lower right are thought to be gas carried out from the center of the galaxy on buoyant bubbles created by previous outbursts. A very faint arc at an even larger distance at the bottom of the image has a probable age of 100 million years.

X-ray features similar to those seen in M87 have been observed in other large galaxies in the centers of galaxy clusters (see, e.g., Perseus A ). This suggests that episodic outbursts from supermassive black holes in giant galaxies may be common phenomena that determine how fast giant galaxies and their central black holes grow. As gas in the galaxy cools, it would flow inward to feed the black hole, producing an outburst which shuts down the inflow for a few million years, at which point the cycle would begin again.

Fast Facts for M87:
Credit  NASA/CXC/W. Forman et al.
Scale  Image is 8.6 x 13.7 arcmin across.
Category  Quasars & Active Galaxies, Groups & Clusters of Galaxies
Coordinates (J2000)  RA 12h 30m 49.40s | Dec +12 23' 28.00"
Constellation  Virgo
Observation Dates  July 29, 2000 & July 06, 2002
Observation Time  33 hours
Obs. IDs  352 (PI: Wilson), 2707 (PI: Cote)
Color Code  Intensity
Instrument  ACIS
Also Known As NGC 4486
References W. Forman et al. Astro-ph/0312576 H. Feng et al. 2004, Astrophys. J. 607:L95-L98
Distance Estimate  50 million light years
Release Date  May 10, 2004