Recently, NASA’s official website unveiled a 23 million light-year-old “beautiful picture” of the Milky Way: huge black holes, shock waves, a lot of gas interweaving, as if a beautiful fireworks show is being staged. The Galactic “firework show” is known to take place in the spiral galaxy NGC 4258 (also known as M106), which resembles our own Galaxy. However, the NGC 4258 is known for its two spiral arms that emit X-rays, optics and radio light. These “abnormal arms” intersect the plane of the galaxy.
Photo: NASA website
In the composite images released by NASA, the galaxy’s “abnormal arm” can be seen, with X-rays from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory in blue, radios from NSF’s Carl Jansky’s Super-Large Array purple, and optical data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope yellow Infrared data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope is red.
A new study by Spitzer shows that, like the sonic boom of supersonic aircraft, shock waves are heating up a lot of gas, equivalent to about 10 million suns.
The researchers believe that the supermassive black hole at the center of NGC 4258 is producing powerful high-energy particle jet streams. These jets hit the disk of galaxies and create shock waves. These shock waves, in turn, heat gases, mainly composed of hydrogen molecules, to thousands of degrees.
Because the galaxy is so close to Earth, astronauts can study in detail what impact the black hole will have on the galaxy, NASA officials said.