Stunning image of a stunning galactic event at an estimated distance of about 1.4billion light-years away, as reported here. What the image shows is a “jet of particles generated by a supermassive black hole at the center of the main galaxy [bottom left] striking the companion galaxy.” Equally stunning is the knowledge that the image is a composite from the combined data of four sources – on X-rays from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory (colored purple), optical and ultraviolet (UV) data from Hubble (red and orange), and radio emission from the Very Large Array (VLA) and MERLIN (blue) – other data from the Spitzer Space Telescope was also used in the analysis. Highly recommend taking the time to visit the Chandra website where, as well as more source and composite images, there are a number of animations and interviews on galaxy 3C321, aka “the death star galaxy”. For quality/explanation of the image, against download time, the best value is probably in the Hi-Res mpg animation of the jet striking the companion galaxy. [9.1MB mpg file] Added animation below More Video and commentary hereCool piece of information from the Chandra press release
Since the Chandra data shows that particle acceleration is still occurring in this hotspot, the jet must have struck the companion galaxy relatively recently, less than about a million years ago (i.e. less than the light travel time to the hotspot). This relatively short cosmic time frame makes this event a very rare phenomenon.
That’s “less than a million years ago” from the point in time captured by the image.. you then have to factor in the light-distance from the observer.
Added YouTubed version of the previously mentioned animation (Credits: NASA/STScI/G. Bacon)