Universe  ID: 14203

Simulations of Weak Black Hole Jets

NASA Goddard astrophysicists Ryan Tanner and Kim Weaver have simulated weak jets produced by monster black holes, which can weigh up to billions of times the Sun's mass, using the NASA Center for Climate Simulation's Discover supercomputer. This page contains visualizations of the jets for a galaxy about the mass of our own Milky Way, with gas distribution and black hole activity modeled after spiral galaxies NGC 1386, NGC 3079, and NGC 4945.

As matter falls toward the black hole, some of it accelerates nearly to light speed and diverts into a narrow pair of jets flowing in opposite directions. The clearest examples extend hundreds of thousands of light-years and are easily detected features in radio. But weaker jets, which are more difficult to detect, can greatly impact the central regions of their host galaxies. Astronomers suspected weak jets might be responsible for unusual gas motions or otherwise unexplainable optical and X-ray emission in some black-hole-powered galaxies.

The simulations shown here vary the jets' angle to the plane of its galaxy by up to 60 degrees, following their evolution across 26,000 light-years of space over 600,000 years. The final form of these outflows depends mainly on their interactions with large, dense gas clouds in the galaxy's central region. The clouds can disrupt, deflect, split, or even suppress the jet. This atlas of simulations provides an important touchstone for better understanding how weaker, less apparent jets modify the inner regions of their home galaxies.

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Scott Wiessinger (KBRwyle): Producer
Francis Reddy (University of Maryland College Park): Science Writer
Kim Weaver (NASA/GSFC): Interviewee
Amogh Thakkar: Intern
Ryan Tanner (The Catholic University of America): Scientist
Ryan Tanner (The Catholic University of America): Visualizer
Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. However, individual items should be credited as indicated above.

Science Paper:
Simulations of AGN-driven Galactic Outflow Morphology and Content

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This item is part of this series:
Astrophysics Simulations

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