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Recent Podcast
A Tour of GSN 069
A Tour of GSN 069
Astronomers found X-ray bursts repeating about every nine hours coming from the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy GSN 069. (2019-09-11)


A Tour of the Teacup

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Narrator (April Jubett, CXC): Fancy a cup of cosmic tea? This one isn't as calming as the ones on Earth. In a galaxy hosting a structure nicknamed the "Teacup," a galactic storm is raging.

The source of the cosmic squall is a supermassive black hole buried at the center of a galaxy located about 1.1 billion light years from Earth. As matter in the central regions of the galaxy is pulled toward the black hole, it is energized by the strong gravity and magnetic fields near the black hole. The infalling material produces more radiation than all the stars in the host galaxy. This kind of actively growing black hole is known as a quasar.

Located about 1.1 billion light years from Earth, the Teacup's host galaxy was originally discovered in visible light images by citizen scientists in 2007 as part of the Galaxy Zoo project, using data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Since then, professional astronomers using space-based telescopes have gathered clues about the history of this galaxy with an eye toward forecasting how stormy it will be in the future.

The "handle" of the Teacup is a ring of optical and X-ray light surrounding a giant bubble. This handle-shaped feature, which is located about 30,000 light-years from the supermassive black hole, was likely formed by one or more eruptions powered by the black hole. Radio emission also outlines this bubble, and a bubble about the same size on the other side of the black hole. New data from Chandra and ESA's XMM-Newton mission are giving astronomers an improved understanding of the history of this galactic storm.

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