Start the year off with something beautiful: this is Hercules A, a galaxy 1.9 billion light years away. This beauty hides a bite: its central black hole is a devouring monster 1,000 times the mass of our own Sagittarius A* with screaming jets nearly a million light years out.
Top image: Composite of Hercules A, a galaxy about 1.9 billion light years away. Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO [X-ray]; NASA/STScI [optical]; NSF/NRAO/VLA [radio]
Optical view of Hercules A. Image credit: NASA/STScI
This composite image layers on optical wavelengths (white, orange, blue), X-ray wavelengths (purple), and radio data (green). In optical light, Hercules A looks like a fairly boring elliptical galaxy. But it isn't: it's an active galaxy, with a black hole munching down on gas, dust, and stars. Black holes are messy eaters: it's heating that in-falling gas as a giant cloud glowing brightly in X-ray light, while the million-light-year-long jets of high-energy particles streaming in radio wavelengths.
X-ray view of Hercules A imaged by the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. Image credit: NASA/CXC/SAO
Hercules A is located about 1.9 billion light years away in the constellation Hercules. The image is 3.3 arcminutes across, covering about 1.7 million light years, and took 31 hours and 57 minutes of observation time to acquire.
Radio view of Hercules A imaged by the Very Large Array. Image credit: NSF/NRAO/VLA