February 06, 2013

Strange ‘Ist-of-Its-Kind’ Galaxy –”Reveals Clues to Evolution of the Universe”

A unique galaxy, dubbed Speca by its discoverers, holds clues to the evolution of galaxies billions of years ago. The galaxy has a combination of characteristics never seen before, giving astronomers a tantalizing peek at processes they believe played key roles in the growth of galaxies and clusters of galaxies early in the history of the Universe.

The galaxy is only the second spiral, as opposed to elliptical, galaxy known to produce large, powerful jets of subatomic particles moving at nearly the speed of light. It also is one of only two galaxies to show that such activity occurred in three separate episodes.

Giant jets of superfast particles are powered by supermassive black holes at the cores of galaxies. Both elliptical and spiral galaxies harbor such black holes, but only Speca and one other spiral galaxy have been seen to produce large jets. The jets pour outward from the poles of rapidly-rotating disks of material orbiting the black hole. The on-and-off jet episodes have been seen in a dozen ellipticals, but only one other elliptical shows evidence, like Speca, for three such distinct episodes.

“This is probably the most exotic galaxy with a black hole ever seen. It has the potential to teach us new lessons about how galaxies and clusters of galaxies formed and developed into what we see today,” said Ananda Hota, of the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics, in Taiwan.

Read more: Strange 'Ist-of-Its-Kind' Galaxy –"Reveals Clues to Evolution of the Universe".

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