Spectacular jets powered by the gravitational energy of a supermassive black hole in the core of the elliptical galaxy Hercules A illustrate the combined imaging power of two of astronomy’s cutting-edge tools, the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 and the recently upgraded Karl G Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope in New Mexico.
Some 2 billion light-years away, the yellowish elliptical galaxy in the centre of the image appears quite ordinary as seen by Hubble in visible wavelengths. The elliptical galaxy is roughly 1 000 times more massive than the bulge of our Milky Way and harbours a 2,5 billion-solar-mass central black hole that is 1 000 times more massive than the black hole in the Milky Way. But the innocuous-looking galaxy, also known as 3C 348, has long been known as the brightest radio-
emitting object in the constellation Hercules. Emitting nearly a billion times more power in radio wavelengths than our Sun, it’s one of the brightest extragalactic radio sources in the entire sky.