A galaxy about 23 million light years away is the site of impressive, ongoing fireworks. This galactic light show involves a giant black hole, massive reservoirs of gas and two glowing, intersecting spiral arms seen through X-ray, optical and radio light. This huge fireworks display is taking place in NGC 4258, also known as M106, a spiral galaxy like the Milky Way.
You’re in for a real shock with report
A new NASA study shows that shock waves, similar to sonic booms from supersonic planes, are heating gas equivalent to about 10 million suns. Experts think that the supermassive black hole at the center of NGC 4258 is producing jets of high-energy particles, which strike the galaxy’s disk to produce shock waves.
“Jets from the super-massive black hole at the center of M106 are having a profound influence on the available gas for making stars in this galaxy," says Patrick Ogle, astrophysicist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and co-author of the study.
By the numbers: 300,000,000
In 300,000,000 years from now, all of the remaining gas will be ejected from this galaxy – very soon on cosmic time scales – unless it is somehow replenished. Because most of the gas in the disk has already been ejected, less gas is available for new stars to form.