DR RUDOLPH SCHILD / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY DR RUDOLPH SCHILD / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Optical CCD image of the giant elliptical galaxy M87 (NGC 4486) and its jet of plasma (white and turquoise) 5000 light years long. M87 belongs to the Virgo cluster of galaxies which lies 50 million light years away from the Earth. Current models suggest that a black hole of 2.6 billion solar masses lies at the core of M87, pulling the stars in this region towards the centre. The black hole also powers the jet, charged particles such as protons and electrons, accelerating them outwards at nearly the speed of light. The interaction between these particles and the magnetic field causes the emission of light from the jet by a process called synchrotron radiation.
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