plasma jets


The upper atmosphere of the Sun is dominated by plasma filled magnetic loops (coronal loops) whose temperature and pressure vary over a wide range. The appearance of coronal loops follows the emergence of magnetic flux, which is generated by dynamo processes inside the Sun. Emerging flux regions (EFRs) appear when magnetic flux bundles emerge from the solar interior through the photosphere and into the upper atmosphere (chromosphere and the corona). The characteristic feature of EFR is the -shaped loops (created by the magnetic buoyancy/Parker instability), they appear as developing bipolar sunspots in magnetograms, and as arch filament systems in . EFRs interact with pre-existing magnetic fields in the corona and produce small flares (plasma heating) and collimated plasma jets. The GIFs above show multiple energetic jets in three different wavelengths. The light has been colorized in red, green and blue, corresponding to three coronal temperature regimes ranging from ~0.8Mk to 2MK. 

Image Credit: SDO/U. Aberystwyth

There is YET ANOTHER worldbuilding exercise I’ve started recently because as far as this stuff goes for me, when it rains it pours.

My favorite trope is “this character should be a villain but is trying very hard to be good even if they’re pretty incompetent at it” so like, why not a story about a SuperVillain Reform Group?

A lot if it is repackaged Deltavengers stuff. No magic, maybe some alien stuff, plenty of cyborgs, robots, and genetic modifications.

Most of the story is probably based around an expert in surgical grafting who spent years working for awful people under the threat of her sister’s death. Eventually she figures out the letters from her sister are faked and she died. So the doctor escapes and goes to the SVRG.

Furnace is one of the few survivors of a secretive experiment. He was a happy dad but was abducted (lots of people were, but they died), experimented on, and spent years in a drugged and dreamlike state where he was used as an elite terror weapon/enforcer. Eventually his owner is brought down after being bombed by another supervillain and Furnace is found wandering with the hangover to end all hangovers.

He’s tough and brutally fast and has plasma jets in his hands and back. To add to the terror factor he laughs. A lot. It’s a nervous habit that he has trouble stopping but it’s a problem. Another problem is that all the motion/sensory parts of his brain and brainstem are so overpowered that he can react long before thinking. Throw something at him? It is crushed. Come at him with a knife? You are maimed and he is sad afterwards. He is probably one of the better examples of the SVRG’s efforts except for the evil laugh.

You might think that this story would mostly be action, but no! It’s mad scientists and monsters in awkward situations!

Maybe this will go somewhere, maybe it won’t. This is just some rough stuff right now.

I had this idea in my head, and this Phandom needs more Savant Par

It wasn’t anything they had expected to happen.  Sure, his enemies always went after his friends, but only as a distraction.  They had never done this before.

“Tucker?!”  A cry of shock and horror cut through the air, silencing the sound of jet engines, plasma guns, shaking buildings.  Everything was muted as a black and white blur caught the falling teen.  The knife was lodged in his chest to the hilt, red staining the yellow sweater.  Sam was next to them in an instant and Valerie’s suit was generating ten times the amount of firepower that it normally did.

Tucker was looking up at him, eyes wide with blank terror.  Danny could feel it, feel the life draining from the older teen in his arms as he coughed up blood trying to breathe.  Peridot eyes slipped closed and Danny saw red.  Then, Phantom saw blue.

A flash of light, and everything was painted over with a layer of brilliant sky blue.  He set tucker down on the ground and growled, low and primal.  “Dash!”  A halo of light, there and gone in an instant, and the quarterback was there.  “You have healing powers, use them.”  The blond was stammering in confusion and bewilderment, but a glance and snarl had him snapping to attention.  “Heal Tucker, NOW!  the ecto mutated teen got to work, and Phantom rose from the ground, silent and shining so brightly that his aura seemed to encompass everything.

Eyes that showed only the frozen tundras of the north and south turned to the source of this pain in his core.  He had attacked him, had thrown the knives, not at Danny, who had been right in front of him, but at Tucker.  He had hurt Tucker.  He hurt Phantom’s friend, his best friend.  “Skulker…” the mech operating ghost was gaining altitude and aiming his missile launchers at Phantom - at his Sam, Dash, he was aiming at His Tucker - and with a quick glance around the area, the missiles were fired.  They didn’t get far, covered in frost and landing with dull thuds mere meters from their launch and that was when he saw it.

Skulker looked into the eyes of what he dubbed prey and saw not anger, fury or predatory rage.  What he saw was the unadulterated wrath of a being far beyond his power, a terrible storm that would rage across the land, freeze and shatter everything in its path until it’s target was found and eradicated.  Skulker saw a force of nature pushed beyond the point of blind lividity and regretted every action he had ever taken.  That was all directed at him.

Phantom raised a hand, ice and snow creeping along the ground and rising into the air with the movement, and pointed a finger at Skulker.  “You will pay.”  the metallic suit was knocked back higher into the air and Phantom rose up to grasp its wing in one gauntlet glad hand.  “You hurt Tucker.  You killed Tucker!”  howling winds whipped through the air as the wing was torn off like cardboard and the mech careened through the air in an uncontrolled descent.  He would pay, he hurt Tucker, he killed Tucker, he hurt his mate, he would pay, he would pay with his after life, Skulker must die!

Ice spread through the circuits and sheets of metal that protected the tiny specter and he ejected himself from the suit with a squeak of terror.  He left it and flew as fast as he could towards FentonWorks.  He had to get out of there, had to escape this aura that was now covering every inch of the city that he could see.  A wall of ice rose up to meet him and spikes twice his size nearly impaled the diminutive ghost.  Ducking low he swerved around a corner.  Spears of ice rained down around him, missing by millimeters and most grazing his body.  As he passed through a wall, ectoplasm left a trail and he cursed the fragility of his true form.  The family whose dinner he was invading shrieked in panic and he soaked up the negative emotion as fast he could, sighing in slight relief when his wounds healed.

It was nearly a second too late that he realized they were screaming because of the ax made of ice heading for his midsection.  Shooting upwards he swore and flew faster than he knew he could.  In the streets stalagmites of ice rose up in his path and flurries of snow threw him into frozen walls, seconds before hundreds of spikes could shoot out of it, barely missing his eyes.  The Child - no, whatever Phantom was, he wasn’t playing around or trying to capture this time.  Panic fueled the tiny ectoblast he managed to shoot out and knock an icicle off course.

Snow was falling all over and as he shifted out of the visible spectrum, skulker rose to the clouds and saw that even they were arctic blue - along with the entire town!  Stark white jets that seemed to defy the supernatural aura surrounding them cut through the air and began firing in the direction of Phantom’s blurred form - the armor of a Viking had replaced his usual hazmat and morningstars of ice knocked them aside like flies.  Snow rose up to grasp the vehicles and pull them to a safe landing but now more than gravity was pulling Skulker to the ground.

Becoming intangible and using every ounce of will he had, the green speck of a ghost zipped towards the halfa’s home, desperate for the quickest means of escape.  His parents! Surely the boy would never do anything to harm them.

Jack Fenton’s bellowing voice was drowned out by the wind that still affected the undead hunter, but he could see a large bazooka being brandished… and then frozen over slowly, the only shots it had managed to get out rising up and changing from green to eerie blue.  The entire Assault Vehicle soon suffered the same fate as both hunter’s weapons and the spheres of blue plasma were launched in his direction.  It was sheer luck that he managed to evade them, one grazing just barely against his arm and covering it in frost.

He dove for the building and had nearly gotten home free when ice, infused with power that dwarfed his own, smacked into him with all the force of a semi truck.  It encased his body fast as lightning and all that was left unfrozen were his eyes.

The ice - and its prisoner - were lifted twenty, thirty, fifty feet in the air before flying towards the earth like a comet and slamming into icy black concrete.  Skulker was lifted by ice once more and the frosty prison shattered into a thousand tiny shards.  All of them pointed at him and orbiting like birds of prey, or wolves waiting for the command to kill from their alpha.

Skulker.”  he looked up and saw his second death, felt the needles of ice and pain rack through his body and pierce his core a million times over.  “You shot the knife that drained Tucker’s life from his body,” a voice whispered like a breeze, and boomed like thunder with the reverberation of a spirit enraged.  Phantom’s eyes were flickering between red and blue, as though his body couldn’t decide what would best display his fury, though obviously irises and pupils didn’t make the cut.

This was the reaction one only got when you threatened a ghost’s mate, so why in the Hells-



One reason,” the halfa spoke, the wind around them whipped up into a frenzie.  “One reason why I shouldn’t pierce all 372 pressure points and see how close to the human body yours is before you melt into a puddle.

“Y-y-you’re the good guy!”  The shards came together into long needles.  “You- you have mor- morals!”  He raised a barrier of green light that was crushed by the pale blue that blanketed the area.  “He- the other boy- your mate!  He wouldn’t approve!”

DON’T YOU SPEAK OF HIM AS THOUGH YOU KNOW HIM!”   frost covered the grass, the trees, the sidewalks, the buildings, everything was ensnared in Phantom’s wrath.  Fangs were bared and a serpent made of snow and ice spiraled into existence, coiled around the two specters.  “YOU THREW THAT KNIFE AT HIM! NOT ME, HIM!  Y̴̨͘͘O̷͟͟͞Ù̴̶̡͜ ͏̨T̵̶̢͞Ó҉̢O̶̸͘͡K̕͞҉́ ́͘̕M̕͘Y̶̸͡ ̨̧M̀͜҉́A͢͠͡T̀͞E̛̕͝ ̴͏͝F̷̧͟R҉́O̸҉̶̡M̴͏ ̷̢̕M͠E̶̴̡͠!͏̛͏͡”  blue sparks arced from needlepoint to needlepoint, and Phantom’s fingers stretched out flat.  “And now I shall make sure you never get to see yours ever again, you filthy slimy putrid hunk of pla-

“Danny…” a familiar voice - hoarse and quiet yet crystal clear - called out and the winds stopped.  Everything stopped and Phantom turned to see Tucker, his friend, his ally, his mate, leaning on Dash for support.  Danny rushed to meet him, wrap his arms around the unhealthily pale boy and breathed.  He was alive!  “Danny, don’t do it.”

Tucker, he nearly murdered you, he deserves it!”  his very core cried out for Justice, for vengeance!  The mongrel must pay!

“No!”  Green glared into orbs of ice and the tech savvy teen stood as firmly as he physically could.  “That’s not how you work, Danny.  You have morals, you don’t kill.”


“And you’re better than him.”  Tucker placed his hands on Phantom’s - Danny’s shoulders, and his eyes pleaded as much as they demanded.  “Please, Danny.  Show me that you’re better than him.”

It was several heartbeats of tense silence before the needles that prodded Skulker’s flesh melted away.  The snow dragon roared before dispersing, and the frog like ghost let out a breath of relief.  The force of Phantom’s will dragged him over to the pair and he shook in terror.  Circles of red imposed on glaciers stared down at him with the intensity of the sun, and a voice reminding him of a fallen king reverberated through his core.  “If I ever see you in the human world again, ever, then nothing will be able to save you from me.  Not your suit, not Plasmius, not Ember.  I ban you, G̢̨̡ros͟͏ve̡ń͢͞ò̷r ̛͜H̶̀͡un̴͟t̛e̛͘r̡, from the Earth and her home dimension, on my name as King.  Begone.”

Skulker did not linger, and Danny watched him flee for his afterlife.  A hand was on his face now, and he allowed Tucker to turn his head towards the other teen.  “You done freaking out?”  A shaky laugh from the halfa, and the geek grinned.  “Good, cause now I get to do this.”  lips met Danny’s and the world was no longer covered in blue.  His hazmat returned and the hero returned the kiss.

questions, comments, thoughts about the world? and yes, Danny did in fact teleport Dash there through sheer force of will.

Angry Danny is an angry Danny. and deadly.  skulky ain’t comin back, ever.


Scientists just got a close-up look at supermassive black hole jets

Researchers used the CanariCam telescope on the Canary Islands to peer at a supermassive black hole at the center of an elliptical galaxy called Cygnus A, which sits about 600 million light-years away. The scientists were able to get a clear picture of two powerful beams of light shooting out from the center of the galaxy. Their observations reveal new info about the plasma located at its center.​

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Centaurus A Extreme Deep Field

Centaurus A is the closest radio galaxy to us and is hosting an Active Galactic Nuleus (AGN) in its centre. It is believed that the twisting of magnetic fields in the accretion disk around the central supermassive black hole collimates the outflow along its rotation axis, so a resulting jet of plasma emerges from each face of the accretion disk.

Credit: Rolf Olsen

This galaxy was imaged over multiple wavelengths using the Hubble Space Telescope and the VLA. The galaxy at the center (Hercules A) is shown creating massive jets of plasma that can only be seen with radio telescopes. These falsely-colored pink jets extend over 1 million lightyears and indicate a black hole in the center of the galaxy with a mass of over 1,000 times that of our own

Solar surges are cool jets of plasma ejected in the solar atmosphere from chromospheric into coronal heights. This particular surge has been captured in a loopy structure and streamed sunwards along the magnetic field lines.

Surges are associated with active regions and they are most likely triggered by magnetic reconnection and magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) wave activity. According to their morphological features, surge prominences can be classified into three types: jet-like, diffuse, and closed loop (above). Jet-like and diffuse surges are associated with coronal mass ejections (CMEs), but the closed-loop surges are not because the initial acceleration of the eruption is slowed down and finally stopped by the overlying coronal loops.

Credit: SDO/ LMSAL


Under a city of tents, the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth is getting a lick of newly developed metallic paint. The unique thermal coating is a combination of aluminium and titanium, able to withstand temperatures in excess of 1,500°C.

Being applied to 2,000 square metres of the 19,000 sq m deck, a robotic device fires powdered metal through a jet of plasma at temperatures of almost 10,000°C (18,000°F). Molten droplets then flatten and quickly solidify, creating a rough coating up to 2.5 mm thick that is bonded to the steel beneath.

Plasma Jets from Radio Galaxy Hercules A
Why does this galaxy emit such spectacular jets? No one is sure, but it is likely related to an active supermassive black hole at its center. The galaxy at the image center, Hercules A, appears to be a relatively normal elliptical galaxy in visible light. When imaged in radio waves, however, tremendous plasma jets over one million light years long appear. Detailed analyses indicate that the central galaxy, also known as 3C 348, is actually over 1,000 times more massive than our Milky Way Galaxy, and the central black hole is nearly 1,000 times more massive than the black hole at our Milky Way’s center. Pictured above is a visible light image obtained by the Earth-orbiting Hubble Space Telescope superposed with a radio image taken by the recently upgraded Very Large Array (VLA) of radio telescopes in New Mexico, USA. The physics that creates the jets remains a topic of research with a likely energy source being infalling matter swirling toward the central black hole.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, S. Baum & C. O’Dea (RIT), R. Perley and W. Cotton (NRAO/AUI/NSF),
and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

kira-darf  asked:

On the post about V404 Cyngi, you said that it emitted bright flashes of light from material it could not swallow. Can you explain how that works? How can a black hole not be able to swallow something?

  Excellent question!  I’m gonna take this opportunity to talk about the awesomeness of this binary. 

V404 Cygni is a variable microquasar, a low-mass X-ray binary that consists of a stellar-mass black hole and a companion star. The companion star is slightly smaller than our sun and it orbits a black hole 10 times its mass. The star’s orbital period is just 6.5 days, which indicates that it’s a close binary. The close orbit and the black hole’s powerful gravity produce tidal forces that pull a stream of gas (accretion stream) from its companion. The gas slowly forms a rotating disk around the black hole, known as an accretion disk.  Gravity and the interaction of particles in the disk will cause material to compress and spiral in towards the black hole, and release energy in different X-ray spectral states (low/hard state). However, there is a much larger X-ray outburst that can cause the binary to shine hundreds of times brighter than normal.

Side note: the entire disk emits light in the infrared, the UV light comes from the disk’s inner regions. Gas closer to the black hole is hotter and emits more energetic radiation, X-rays or even gamma rays.

Most of the time, the turbulent flow inside the spinning disk is steady, although, it’s clumpy enough that the binary system can appear to flicker a little, and emit short bursts of low-energy X-rays, which is one reason why it’s designated as a variable and a soft X-ray transient. The stability of the flow within the disk depends on the rate of matter flowing into it from the stellar companion to that falling into the black hole. But, there’s a glitch in V404 Cygni’s case; the disk fails to maintain that steady internal flow as the gas continues to build up around the black hole, like water behind a dam. The disk becomes progressively hotter as it reaches a critical density and when the temperature reaches the ionization level, the dam breaks, and V404 Cygni becomes an X-ray nova.

It is important to keep in mind that the accretion disk is a complex hydrodynamic place, it is subject to instabilities, in this case; the viscous/thermal disk instability model can broadly explain the sudden X-ray outbursts. This thermal-viscous instability triggers cooling and heating fronts that propagate throughout the disk, alternating between low viscosity state –  a cooler, less ionized state where gas simply collects in the outer regions of the disk, and a high viscosity state – a hotter, more ionized state that sends a tidal waves toward the black hole (illustrated below).

In the cool state the disk accumulates mass from the companion star, this can take several decades, and in the hot state the disk loses mass, at an increased rate, the heating waves propagate through the disk bringing it to a bright hot state at which the X-ray luminosity reaches its maximum. Hence the name X-ray nova. An X-ray nova is a short-lived X-ray flare that appears suddenly, and then fades out over a period of weeks or months. Now the interesting part. The powerful outbursts generate beams of plasma (hot gas) ejected at great speeds (relativistic jets) along the polar axis of the disk. So, if nothing can escape a black hole, not even light, then why do some black holes have these bipolar jets?  

The origin of these jets remains elusive, the exact process is not well understood, however, strong magnetic fields are suspected to play a role; spinning black holes that are devouring interstellar gas also expel some of it in twin collimated jets, because magnetic forces can be as strong as gravity near black holes. The black hole itself is not directly involved in the jet launching, the powerful jets of plasma emerge from the inner parts of accretion disk and travel along the open lines of the poloidal magnetic field, which extend to large distances above the disk surface.

Here’s a visual aid to give you an idea of what’s happening. This is a computer simulation of the formation of jets from a rotating accreting black hole. The accretion disk is the yellow, doughnut shaped object, the outer disk and the wind is in green/orange, the plasma beams are blue/red and the magnetic field lines are bright green.

Image credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, 3D simulation; McKinney and Blandford


These cool images are a bit reminiscent of snowflakes, right? Not quite. Think warmer…much, much warmer. 

Stars are the grandmasters of energy generation. Inside the hot, gravity-crunched heart of the sun, atoms fuse together and unleash tremendous amounts of energy. The sunlight that illuminates and warms our planet after a 93-million-mile journey is the direct product of fusion. Fusion is an incredible source of energy, and it’s one that our scientists are learning more about, but it’s tough to study in a lab. (All that heat would melt things, including the ground.)

So how can an earthbound laboratory replicate a stellar-scale furnace? These colorful starbursts are actually computer simulations that map out one potential source of terrestrial fusion: supersonic jets crashing into plasma blobs. Yep, jets and blobs.

At Brookhaven, our scientists use sophisticated simulations to test the feasibility of this approach to fusion. In the computational model, 30 supersonic plasma jets blaze—at speeds beyond 224,000 miles per hour—into a spherical chamber from all directions, spread slightly, and then collide with each other to form a ring of intense energy. This ring then collapses, imploding onto a plasma blob target. If everything goes according to plan, the ionized atoms of the target then fuse and produce tremendous amounts of usable energy.

The top image shows the plasma density, and the bottom one shows the degree of ionization.


A famous supermassive black hole ‘spied on’ with the Gran Telescopio CANARIAS

Cygnus A is an elliptical galaxy at around 600 million light years from the Earth, which has a supermassive black hole at its centre. It is one of the brightest sources of radio waves in the sky and featured in Contact, the famous science fiction novel by Carl Sagan which was made into a film. It has an active galactic nucleus which means that the black hole is “swallowing” material from its surroundings. When this occurs strong electromagnetic radiation is produced, as well as large jets of particles which are emitted from the galactic nucleus at a speed close to that of light, travelling beyond the edge of the galaxy and reaching three hundred thousand light years into the intergalactic medium.

This is the first time that polarimetric observations in the middle infrared region of the spectrum (1) have been made of the nucleus of an active galaxy. “The combination of the Gran Telescopio CANARIAS (GTC) and CanariCam offers unique capabilities for the observation of active galaxies using polarimetric techniques in the middle infrared” explains Enrique López Rodríguez, a researcher at the University of Texas in Austin (EE UU) and the first author of this study, published in the Astrophysical Journal. “There is no other comparable instrument of this kind, he stresses, and no such instruments are expected until the next decade, because the instruments which are being developed now cannot make polarimetric measurements”.

Polarimetry is the technique which studies the intensity and the orientation of electromagnetic waves. “If the observed radiation is polarized in a given sense and with a given dependence on wavelength we can obtain information about the physical mechanisms which produce the polarization. This technique helps us squeeze out the last drop of information from each photon picked up by the GTC” says López Rodríguez". “Polarimetry” he adds lets us eliminate from the observations all the light which is not affected by the magnetic field in the active nucleus, so that we can filter out everything which comes from other sources, such as the galaxy itself, or background stars. This gives us a much higher contrast when we observe the jets and the dust in the galaxy, while studying the influence of the magnetic field on both of them".

On the basis of these observations the astronomers have been able to detect that the plasma ejected from the active nucleus is spiraling around the magnetic field of the jet, which generates a type of radiation known as “synchrotron radiation”, produced by the rapid movement of electrons around magnetic fields. Although this phenomenon had been observed previously at other wavelengths, this is the first time it has been detected in the middle infrared, which has enabled us to confirm that the plasma in the jet of Cygnus A is highly confined by the effect of the magnetic field. These observations allow us to obtain information about the configuration of the magnetic field in the neighbourhood of the black hole (2), valuable information which cannot be directly observed.

A cosmic jigsaw
Astronomers classify Cygnus A as a radiogalaxy because it is one of the most powerful radio sources in the sky. It was observed for the first time in 1939 and it is named because it is the strongest radio source in the constellation of the Swan (latin name Cygnus). Nevertheless this galaxy emits radiation over the full range of the electromagnetic spectrum which makes it an ideal astronomical laboratory, and one of the favourite objects of astronomers, who have been making observations with diverse instruments and at different wavelengths, interpreting them to compose the pieces of a cosmic jigsaw which will let us understand better what is happening in that region of the universe.

Cygnus A has a very complex structure which includes a compact nucleus and opposed jets of matter emitted from the centre of the galaxy towards the edges, all shrouded in a mantle of dust with an irregular structure which is impenetrable to visible light. “It is a paradigm galaxy for studying the formation and evolution of jets, because the dust completely obscures the centre of the galaxy, so that we cannot detect well the light emitted by the jets” explains López Rodríguez.

This is why the research team has used CanariCam, and instrument designed to detect infrared radiation, which is not blocked by interstellar dust.

The Gran Telescopio CANARIAS is uniquely equipped to make these observations. Thanks to its large primary mirror, which favours high spatial resolution, and the CanariCam instrument, which can observe in the middle infrared wavelength range, we can study the infrared radiation emitted by the galaxy. This emission comes from matter which is not hot enough to emit visible light, but are warm enough (around 220K, which is -53ºC) to emit infrared radiation. In addition the polarimetric capability of CanariCam gives an additional dimension of information with which astronomers can analyze to interpret different physical mechanisms.

Until now very little has been known about the polarization of the infrared radiation emitted by the supermassive black holes which are at the centres of the majority of galaxies. Astronomers hope that these, and other similar observations can provide new data which will help them to understand the mechanisms which cause the activity of these cosmic monsters, and their influence on the galaxies which they inhabit.

[1] With the aim of explaining the dominant mechanism which polarizes the radiation from Cygnus A at infrared wavelengths this study presents polarimetric observations at high angular resolution (0.4 arcseconds) in the filters at 8.7mm and 11.6 mm, using the CanariCam instrument on the Gran Telescopio CANARIAS (GTC) of 10.4 metres diameter at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias on the island of La Palma (Spain).
[2] For Cygnus A, the 65% of polarization measured in the middle infrared is close to the theoretical máximum of 70% which indicates that there is a highly ordered magnetic field around the nucleus of Cygnus A.

TOP IMAGE….This is a view of the jets of the elliptical galaxy in Cygnus A. Credit X-ray image: NASA/CXC/SAO; visible light image: NASA/STScI; radio waves image: NSF/NRAO/AUI/VLA.

CENTRE IMAGE….Novel observations by an international group of researchers with the CanariCam instrument on the Gran Telescopio CANARIAS provide new information about magnetic fields around the active nucleus of the galaxy Cygnus A. This is the first time that polarimetric observations in the middle infrared region of the spectrum have been made of the nucleus of an active galaxy. Credit NRAO.

LOWER IMAGE….This is a view of the jets of the elliptical galaxy in Cygnus A. Credit NRAO/AUI.

Supermassive Black Hole
The supermassive black holes in the cores of some galaxies drive massive outflows of molecular hydrogen gas. As a result, most of the cold gas is expelled from the galaxies. Since cold gas is required to form new stars, this directly affects the galaxies’ evolution. These outflows are now a key ingredient in theoretical models of the evolution of galaxies, but it has long been a mystery as to how they are accelerated.
 The study provides the first direct evidence that the molecular outflows are accelerated by energetic jets of electrons that are moving at close to the speed of light. Such jets are propelled by the central supermassive black holes. Using the ESO Very Large Telescope in Chile to observe the nearby galaxy IC5063, the researchers found that the molecular hydrogen gas is moving at extraordinary speeds - 1 million kilometers per hour - at the locations in the galaxy where its jets are impacting regions of dense gas.
 These findings help us further understand the eventual fate of our own galaxy, the Milky Way, which will collide with neighbouring galaxy Andromeda in about 5 billion of years. As a result of this collision, gas will fall to the centre of the remnant of this collision, but the jets coming from the central supermassive black hole will, in a way similar to what is now observed in IC 5063, eject the gas from the system, preventing the formation of new stars and growth of the newly formed galaxy. Clive Tadhunter, from the University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, said: “Much of the gas in the outflows is in the form of molecular hydrogen, which is fragile in the sense that it is destroyed at relatively low energies. I find it extraordinary that the molecular gas can survive being accelerated by jets of highly energetic particles moving at close to the speed of light.” “We suspected that the molecules must have been able to reform after the gas had been completely upset by the interaction with a fast plasma jet.” says Morganti “Our direct observations of the phenomenon have confirmed that this extreme situation can indeed occur. Now we need to work at describing the exact physics of the interaction”. The results are published in Nature on the 6th of July and they are connected to the project ‘Exploiting new radio telescopes to understand the role of AGN in galaxy evolution’, for which Morganti received from the European Research Council an Advanced Grant of 2.5 Meuro last year.
 Caption: Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy

  NASA/ESA and the Hubble Space Telescope archive.