The only thing more impressive than this jaw-dropping image is the fact that it’s real. It’s not a painting or a computer-generated image. It’s the real deal, and it shows something that really exists, a mere 50 million light years from Earth.
So what is it?
We’re all thinking the same thing, right? Behold the open mouth of Galactus!!
But no. In reality, it’s something a little less tabloid, but every bit as awe-inspiring. You are looking at what NASA describes as a “rapidly growing supermassive black hole” located in the nearby galaxy NGC 1068. (Seriously, scientific community, can’t we come up with cooler names?) This bad boy is twice the size of the black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy, and it’s chewing up matter and belching gas into the surrounding space at a speed of one million miles an hour.
The most incredible thing about the photo is how it was made. It’s actually a composite of multiple images from the Hubble Space Telescope, the Very Large Array in New Mexico, and the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The latter X-ray data is shown in red, visual data from Hubble is in green, and radio data from VLA is in blue. I can’t remember ever seeing a real-life black hole before.
The Chandra scientists responsible for studying the black hole believe that it’s making such profound changes to NGC 1068, that it’s altering the evolution of that galaxy.
So what happens after it chews up its own galaxy? You never can eat just one, you know. We better start building spaceships en masse and getting the heck out of this thing’s way, pronto.