There are billions of observable galaxies, with Hubble reporting somewhere around 100 billion in 2014, but not many are very easily noticed. Scientists are one again stumped, as the brightest observable galaxy is tearing itself apart.
W2246-0526 is one of the easiest galaxies in the Universe to spot, mainly because it’s the brightest galaxy observable from Earth.
This far, far away galaxy is situated 12.4 billion light years away from Earth, and the light show it’s currently putting on is so powerful that it’s even brighter than before.
Cause by a supermassive black holes eating up dust and gas particles, the process behind what’s happening is perhaps the most easily explained as a pot of boiling water with a nuclear reactor in its center heating it up.
According to NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, W2246-0526 is not only the galaxy shining the brightest as seen from Earth, but simply the brightest galaxy we can look upon with our current level of technology. This means that it also has the highest power output of all known galaxies.
Forming one billion years after the Big Bang, W2246-0526 is currently tearing itself apart due to the supermassive black hole at its center.
The black hole is also the reason behind the galaxy’s unusually high brightness and power output.
As the black hole grows and increases its accretion disk, it attracts all the gas and interstellar dust in the galaxy, heating it up to extreme temperatures, and spewing superhot jets of plasma throughout space.
These extremely powerful bursts of light and heat are what make the galaxy so bright and powerful, even brighter than 300 trillion suns.
Despite the black hole’s event horizon being smaller than the galaxy, as much as one million times smaller, the energy emitted by the consuming black hole manages to affect gas thousands of light years away.
Usually, this type of energy is thrown away from the black hole, in two directions. This is the first time when it is found to travel all throughout the galaxy.
The scientists investigating the phenomenon are unsure of what exactly is going to happen next, but they say that a likely scenario is for the black hole to either consume or push away all the remaining dust in the galaxy, including that on its accretion disk, becoming a quasar.
W2246-0526 is a very rare type of galaxy called a Hot DOG, or a Hot, Dust-Obscured Galaxy; its frequency is about one in 3000 galaxies, but becoming a quasar would render it even more impressive.
Image source: Wikimedia