Bright galaxy Centaurus A (Cen A) stands out prominently in this composite image from several different telescopes. A supermassive black hole consumes matter from the surrounding gas and dust and shoots out enormous jets of high-energy particles and other matter. About 13,000 light-years away from the black hole is where the jet shown in the top left of this image begins. A dust lane can be seen circling the galaxy’s core; it likely formed as a result of a collision with a more compact galaxy many millions of years ago.
Bright galaxy Cen A Colorful view captured by multiple telescopes:
The data origins inspired the image’s color scheme. The images were captured by three different tools: Chandra X-ray Observatory, IXPE satellite, and European Southern Observatory. Chandra’s images are in blue, IXPE’s images are in orange, and ESO’s images are in white and gray. The white and gray colors represent optical light in ESO’s images.
How has IXPE helped scientists study polarization and X-ray emission in Cen A’s jets, a Bright Galaxy?
Since Chandra was launched in 1999, a lot has been learned about Cen A. In 2021, scientists will have a new tool at their disposal thanks to the launch of the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE). IXPE is designed to study polarization, a characteristic of X-ray radiation that is related to the structure of electromagnetic waves. Scientists are using this precise measurement to learn more about how particles are pushed to nearly the speed of light in the most extreme cosmic objects. Cen A, also known as NGC 5128, is a Bright Galaxy located in the constellation Centaurus, approximately 11 million light-years away from Earth.
Using IXPE, scientists at Cen A are investigating the origins of the X-ray emission in the jets. If particles heavier than electrons, such as protons, aren’t responsible for making the X-rays at Cen A, then the polarization of the X-rays should be detectable. Scientists will learn more as they continue to examine the data.
Cen A, the fifth brightest galaxy in the sky, is located 12 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Centaurus.