Jul 29

Bright Rays and Dark Shadows in a Nearby Galaxy

From 156 million light-years away the heart of active galaxy IC 5063 reveals a mixture of bright rays and dark shadows coming from the blazing core, home of a supermassive black hole.
In this Hubble Space Telescope image, astronomers suggest that a ring of dusty material surrounding the black hole may be casting its shadow into space. According to this scenario, the interplay of light and shadow may occur when light blasted by the monster black hole strikes the dust ring, which is buried deep inside the core. Light streams through gaps in the ring, creating the brilliant cone-shaped rays. However, denser patches in the disk block some of the light, casting long, dark shadows through the galaxy.
This phenomenon is similar to sunlight piercing our Earthly clouds at sunset, creating a mixture of bright rays and dark shadows formed by beams of light scattered by the atmosphere.
However, the bright rays and dark shadows appearing in IC 5063 are happening on a vastly larger scale, shooting across at least 36,000 light-years.
mage Credit: NASA, ESA, STScI and W.P. Maksym (CfA)

Source: NASA