The Hubble Space Telescope has witnessed the collision.
The black hole in the radio galaxy NGC 3862 is located roughly 260 million light years away from our Milky Way.
The jets emanating from galaxies can appear to be racing toward Earth faster than the speed of light, a condition that is forbidden by the Special Theory of Relativity. This violation of laws of physics is due to an optical illusion, and astronomers hope this new finding helps them learn more about this strange effect.
Extra galactic jets, which shoot material from the active nucleus of a galaxy in a thin beam, are not well understood.
Analysis of the new data suggests that collisions within the beams accelerate material within the structure and increase the brightness of the gas.
Hubble has observed galaxy NCG 3862 over the course of 20 years. These images are used by the astronomers to create a video showing movement of the material away from the elliptical galaxy.
The jets emanating from NCG 3862 were first spotted in the constellation of Leo by astronomers using the Hubble telescope in 1992. They have a bumpy structure, much like a pearl necklace.
The video created by the astronomers showed one of the knots, appearing to move at the superluminal speed of seven times the speed of light, catching up and colliding with a slower moving clump of material. As the two collide, the event resulted in increased brightness from the scene of the accident. This behavior is expected to continue for several decades.
Eileen Meyer of the Space Telescope Science Institute or STScI said, “Something like this has never been seen before in an extragalactic jet. This will allow us a very rare opportunity to see how the energy of the collision is dissipated into radiation.”
Newly formed stars and black holes emit jets of gas in a fine stream, similar to a laser.
Astronomers believe that the gas comprises these features originally falls onto the stars or near the black hole, where the material is super heated. It is then ejected away from the body through acceleration delivered by the rotation of the central object.
This stream of material is then focused into a beam by the force of magnetic fields around the star or black hole. At the beginning of this process, if the gas falling onto the star arrives in clumps, it can result in pulses of material at the end, producing the necklace like structure seen in the NGC 3862.