NASA has transformed our understanding of galaxy since its inception over sixty years ago. The US space agency is announcing amazing finds on an almost daily basis, due to an array of cutting-edge satellites exploring our solar system and beyond. NASA’s latest discovery is one of their most incredible yet – cosmic superbubbles, formed by a supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy.
A brace of superbubbles have been observed in a far-away galaxy by NASA’s powerful Chandra satellite X-ray detectors.
The cosmic superbubbles appear as two luminous masses stretched on opposite sides of an enormous black hole.
The superbubbles are most likely made by matter falling into the black hole and act like powerful particle accelerators, like those found at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN).
The bubbles are in fact so powerful that NASA has calculated they are 100 times stronger than those at the Large Hadron Collider.
The superbubbles, shown in purple, are also so hot they emit X-rays.
The “extremely energetic cosmic rays” that are generated in their formation have been detected and captured by a combination of radio, X-ray, and optical imaging from NASA.
These X-rays were detected by a combination of NASA’s Chandra X-ray observatory and optical information from NASA’s Hubble Telescope.
Doing this enabled NASA to create both wide-field and close-up images of the superbubble phenomena.
The superbubbles are found in the NGC 3079 spiral galaxy, 50 million light-years distant from Earth.
The bigger of the two bubbles spans 4,900 light years across, while the smaller is 3,600 light years in diameter.
A NASA spokesperson said: “The Chandra observations show that a cosmic particle accelerator in NGC 3079 is producing ultra-energetic particles in the rims of the superbubbles.
“Since the bubbles straddle the centre of NGC 3079, one leading hypothesis is that they were somehow created by the interaction of the central with surrounding gas.
“Alternatively, the superbubbles might have been created primarily by the energetic winds from many young and hot stars near that galaxy’s centre.
“The only similar known phenomenon is the gamma-ray emitting Fermi bubbles emanating from the centre of our Milky Way galaxy, discovered 10 years ago in images taken by NASA’s Fermi satellite.”
NASA will now concentrate in searching for similar high-energy cosmic superbubbles in other galaxies.