THE UNIVERSE IS A SPOOKY PLACE

Reflections form a black hole.

A composite Chandra X-ray (blue/green) and Hubble optical (red) image of NGC 1068 shows hot gas blowing away from a central supermassive black hole at speeds averaging about 1 million miles per hour. The elongated shape of the gas cloud is thought to be due to the funneling effect of a torus, or doughnut-shaped cloud, of cool gas and dust that surrounds the black hole. The X-rays are scattered and reflected X-rays that are probably coming from a hidden disk of hot gas formed as matter swirls very near the black hole. Regions of intense star formation in the inner spiral arms of the galaxy are highlighted by the optical emission.

This 2003 composite X-ray (blue and green) and optical (red) image of the active galaxy, NGC 1068, shows gas blowing away in a high-speed wind from the vicinity of a central supermassive black hole. Regions of intense star formation in the inner spiral arms of the galaxy are highlighted by both optical and X-ray emission.

The elongated shape of the gas cloud is thought to be due to the funneling effect of a torus, or doughnut-shaped cloud, of cool gas and dust that surrounds the black hole. The torus, which appears as the elongated white spot in the accompanying 3-color X-ray images, has a mass of about 5 million Suns. Radio observations indicate that the torus extends from within a few light years of the black hole out to about 300 light years.

The X-rays observed from the torus are scattered and reflected X-rays that are probably coming from a hidden disk of hot gas formed as matter swirls very near the black hole. The torus is one source of the gas in the high-speed wind, but the hidden disk may also be involved. X-ray heating of gas further out in the galaxy contributes to the slower, outer parts of the wind.

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