The researchers have been coming up with several theories as to why the light is being emitted.
Centre for Astrophysics’ Peter Maksym-led team traced these rays to the core of the galaxy. (Image: NASA, ESA, and W.P. Maksym (CfA))
Black holes: Sunsets offer some of the most stunning views when the sunlight filters through the clouds and creates a mix of bright and dark rays due to the scattering of light by the atmosphere and the shadows of the clouds. A similar effect was noticed by astronomers who were studying the images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope of a nearby galaxy called IC 5063. The images showed narrow bright and dark rays of light emerging from the bright centre of the galaxy.
Centre for Astrophysics’ Peter Maksym-led team traced these rays to the core of the galaxy. This is where they found an active supermassive black hole, a dense and compact spatial region which swallows light as well as matter under a massive gravitational pull. The rays are emitted from the black hole, which is feeding on the infalling material and producing the powerful light due to the superheated gas around it.
The researchers have been coming up with several theories as to why the light is being emitted. Among these, the most intriguing theory, as per NASA, is that an inner tube like ring or torus made up of dusty material is surrounding the black hole and casting the shadow into space.
Maksym’s proposal is that the dust disk surrounding the black hole is not blocking all of the light, and the light is beaming out from the gaps in the disk, leading to the emergence of rays in a brilliant cone shape, similar to those seen at the sunset but at a massively larger scale, shooting across a distance of at least 36,000 light years.
Meanwhile, some of the light emerging from the superheated gas hits the rings’ dense patches, causing the shadow of the ring to be created into space, which then appear as dark rays interspersed with the bright ones.
The reason for the visibility of the beams as well as shadows is that the black hole along with its ring are tipped a little sideways in comparison to the galaxy’s plane, allowing the rays of light to extend much farther outside the galaxy.
NASA said that the torus funnels material towards the black hole, making the study of the torus is important. If Maksym’s interpretation is accurate, this could mean that the disk in the nearby galaxy is very thin, explaining why the light is able to leak out.