About 2 Billion light years out from Earth lives a gigantic puffball of stars named 3C 348. To optical telescopes it looks like a quiet, common, elliptical galaxy; faintly yellow in color. But at radio frequencies, we can see two enormous high-energy plasma beams jetting out far beyond the perimeter of the galaxy. The source of this cosmic bi-radial energy blaster is a huge black hole, two and a half billion times more massive than our Sun. That’s about 1000 times heavier than the super-massive black hole at the centre of our Milky Way galaxy. Look closely at the outlying regions of both jets and you’ll discern ring-shaped features. These are unusual compared to black-hole beams from other galaxies and they may be showing us that the central source has had a restless history of outbursts. Surrounding the big black hole – but invisible in this animation – is an extremely energetic cloud of gas, radiating X-rays outward across space. We also can’t see where the jets actually begin because the shattered atoms that the black hole is spitting out are moving so fast any visible traces are constrained to a pair of narrow cones close in to the source. The galaxy driving all this amazing action is also called Hercules A, glowing brightly in the constellation of the strongman. And like it namesake, it's bulked up and big: 1000 times more massive than our Galaxy. For SPACE.com, I’m Dave Brody
A black hole, 1000 times more massive than the one at our galaxy's center, is blasting energetic plasma far across space. Its host galaxy, in the constellation Hercules, is itself 1000 times more massive than our Milky Way.
Credit: SPACE.com / STScI / NRAO