The stars and stripes... in space!
Somewhere in the deepest reaches of space, aliens are chanting "USA! USA! USA!"
OK, that might be a stretch. But 23 million light years away, in a galaxy known as NGC 4258, there is a fireworks display so impressive it might just blow away the space-time continuum.
"Rather than paper, powder, and fire," NASA says, "this galactic light show involves a giant black hole, shock waves, and vast reservoirs of gas." So why is that so spectacular? NASA says:
[S]hock waves, similar to sonic booms from supersonic planes, are heating large amounts of gas — equivalent to about 10 million suns. What is generating these shock waves? Researchers think that the supermassive black hole at the center of NGC 4258 is producing powerful jets of high-energy particles. These jets strike the disk of the galaxy and generate shock waves. These shock waves, in turn, heat the gas — composed mainly of hydrogen molecules — to thousands of degrees. [NASA]
You can check out all the spectacular photos at NASA.gov, but here's a teaser: