The jet and counterjet of 3C 270 (NGC 4261) viewed in the X-ray with Chandra

DM Worrall, M Birkinshaw, Ewan O'Sullivan, A Zezas, A Wolter, G Trinchieri, G Fabbiano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Citations (Scopus)


The radio source 3C 270, hosted by nearby elliptical galaxy NGC 4261, is the brightest known example of counterjet X-ray emission from a low-power radio galaxy. We report on the X-ray emission of the jet and counterjet from 130 ks of Chandra data. We argue that the X-ray emission is synchrotron radiation and that the internal properties of the jet and counterjet are remarkably similar. We find a smooth connection in X-ray hardness and X-ray-to-radio ratio between the jet and one of the X-ray components within the core spectrum. We observe wedge-like depressions in diffuse X-ray surface brightness surrounding the jets, and interpret them as regions where an aged population of electrons provides pressure to balance the interstellar medium of NGC 4261. About 20 per cent of the mass of the interstellar medium has been displaced by the radio source. Treating 3C 270 as a twin-jet system, we find an interesting agreement between the ratio of jet-to-counterjet length in X-rays and that expected if X-rays are observed over the distance that an outflow from the core would have travelled in similar to 6 x 10(4) yr. X-ray synchrotron loss times are shorter than this, and we suggest that most particle acceleration arises as a result of turbulence and dissipation in a stratified flow. We speculate that an episode of activity in the central engine beginning similar to 6 x 10(4) yr ago has led to an increased velocity shear. This has enhanced the ability of the jet plasma to accelerate electrons to X-ray-synchrotron-emitting energies, forming the X-ray jet and counterjet that we see today.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)701-712
Number of pages12
JournalRoyal Astronomical Society. Monthly Notices
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2010


  • galaxies: jets
  • X-rays: galaxies
  • galaxies: individual: 3C 270
  • galaxies: individual: NGC 4261
  • galaxies: active


Dive into the research topics of 'The jet and counterjet of 3C 270 (NGC 4261) viewed in the X-ray with Chandra'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this