NASA / GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER / CI LAB / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY NASA / GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER / CI LAB / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Active galactic nucleus (AGN), computer artwork. An AGN is a galactic core that emits a higher luminosity than can be produced by the galaxy's stars alone. This is thought to be caused by a supermassive black hole at the core accreting mass. As gas falls into the black hole the gravitational energy is converted into heat and the heated gas emits radiation. Relativistic jets of charged particles (magenta) stream outward from the accretion disk at nearly the speed of light. Such active black holes are often found at the hearts of elliptical galaxies. Not all black holes have jets, but when they do, the jets can be pointed in any direction. If a jet happens to shine at Earth, the object is called a blazar.
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