Celebrants this Fourth of July will enjoy the dazzling lights and booming shock waves from the explosions of fireworks. A similarly styled event is taking place in the galaxy Messier 106, as seen by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Herschel Space Observatory. Herschel is a European Space Agency mission with important NASA contributions.
Energetic jets, which blast from Messier 106's central black hole, are heating up material in the galaxy and thus making it glow, like the ingredients in a firework. The jets also power shock waves that are driving gases out of the galaxy's interior.
Those gases constitute the fuel for churning out new stars. A new study estimates the shock waves have already warmed and ejected two-thirds of the gas from the center of Messier 106. With a reduced ability to birth new stars, Messier 106 appears to be transitioning into a barren, so-called lenticular galaxy full of old, red stars. Lenticular galaxies are flat disks without prominent spiral arms.