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WASHINGTON, Jan. 10 /PRNewswire/ -- Black holes are creating havoc in unsuspected places, according to a new study of images of elliptical galaxies made by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. The discovery of far-reaching explosive activity, due to giant central black holes in these old galaxies, was a surprise to astronomers.
The Chandra data revealed an unsuspected turmoil in elliptical galaxies that belies their calm appearance in optical light. Astronomers believe massive clouds of hot gas in these galaxies have been stirred up by intermittent explosive activity from centrally located super-massive blackholes.
"This is another example of how valuable it is to observe the universe at different wavelengths besides just the traditional optical wavelengths," said NASA's Chandra Program Scientist Wilt Sanders. "Without these X-ray and radio observations, we wouldn't know these apparently static galaxies in reality are still evolving due to the interaction with their central black holes."
These results came from an analysis of 56 elliptical galaxies in the Chandra data archive by associate professor Thomas Statler and doctoral candidate Steven Diehl , both of the Physics and Astronomy department at the Ohio University, Athens , Ohio. Contrary to expectations, they found the distribution of the multimillion-degree gas in these galaxies differed markedly from that of the stars.
"Most elliptical galaxies have traditionally been considered to be quiet places, like placid lakes," Statler said. "Our results show these galaxies area lot stormier than we thought."