Spiral galaxy Messier 77, aka NGC 1068-re
Galaxy NGC 1068 can be seen in close-up in this view from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. NuSTAR’s high-energy X-rays eyes were able to obtain the best view yet into the hidden lair of the galaxy’s central, supermassive black hole. This active black hole — shown as an illustration in the zoomed-in inset — is one of the most obscured known, meaning that it is surrounded by extremely thick clouds of gas and dust.
image insert-re
In the view of modern astronomers, a supermassive black hole at the center of a distant galaxy is likely encircled by thick, doughnut-shaped disk or torus of gas and dust. The material in these tori is what feeds an active black hole, that is, one that’s still growing.
Telescopes couldn’t penetrate a supermassive black hole’s torus until recently, but now some can, and NASA released the amazing image above this month (December 17, 2015). It’s a peek inside one of the densest known of these tori, surrounding the black hole at the center of a well-studied spiral galaxy called NGC 1068 (aka M77), located some 47 million light-years away in the direction to the constellation Cetus the Whale. The telescope that acquired this image is called NuSTAR (NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array), and it used its X-ray vision to look inside the disk.
It has confirmed that the material in the disk isn’t smooth, but rather clumpy.
A NASA statement explained:
    Doughnut-shaped disks of gas and dust around supermassive black holes were first proposed in the mid-1980s to explain why some black holes are hidden behind gas and dust while others are not. The idea is that the orientation of the doughnut relative to Earth affects the way we perceive a black hole and its intense radiation. If the doughnut is viewed edge-on, the black hole is blocked. If the doughnut is viewed face-on, the black hole and its surrounding, blazing materials can be detected. This idea is referred to as the ‘unified model’ because it neatly joins together the different black hole types, based solely upon orientation.
    In the past decade, astronomers have been finding hints that these doughnuts aren’t as smoothly shaped as once thought. They are more like defective, lumpy doughnuts that a doughnut shop might throw away.
    The new discovery is the first time this clumpiness has been observed in an ultra-thick doughnut and supports the idea that this phenomenon may be common. The research is important for understanding the growth and evolution of massive black holes and their host galaxies.
wow, thank you, Skeen!
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