December 18, 2007 in Nation/World

‘Death star galaxy’ lashes out at neighbor

Seth Borenstein Associated Press
 

WASHINGTON – The latest act of senseless violence caught on tape is cosmic in scope: A black hole in a “death star galaxy” blasting a neighboring galaxy with a jet of radiation and energy.

A fleet of space and ground telescopes have captured images of this cosmic violence, which people have never witnessed before, according to a new study released Monday by NASA.

“It’s like a bully, a black-hole bully punching the nose of a passing galaxy,” said astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York, who wasn’t involved in the research.

But ultimately, this could be a deadly punch.

The telescope images show the bully galaxy shooting a stream of radiation particles into the lower section of the other galaxy, which is about one-tenth its size. Both are about 8.2 billion trillion miles from here and orbit each other.

The larger galaxy has a multidigit name but is called the “death star galaxy” by one of the researchers who discovered the galactic bullying, Daniel Evans of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Tens of millions of stars, including those with orbiting planets, are likely in the path of the deadly jet, said study co-author Martin Hardcastle of the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom.

If Earth were in the way – and it’s not – the high-energy particles and radiation of the jet would in a matter of months strip away the planet’s protective ozone layer and compress the protective magnetosphere, said Evans. That would then allow the sun and the jet itself to bombard the planet with high-energy particles.

And what would that do to life on the planet?

“Decompose it,” Tyson said.

“Sterilize it,” Evans piped in.

© Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email