For the first time, researchers have captured a black hole spewing out a powerful jet

For the first time, researchers have captured a black hole spewing out a powerful jet

Thanks to this new image, astronomers hope to better understand how black holes give off jets of high energy.

Black holes are generally known as omnivorous carnivores, devouring and swallowing any matter that comes too close. However, at the same time, black holes can also eject jets of matter. These jets sometimes travel at nearly the speed of light and often reach far beyond the boundaries of their galaxy. Astronomers have long grappled with the question of how such massive jets could form. However, a newly produced image may help unravel this mystery. Because for the first time, researchers have succeeded in imaging a black hole being hurled away by a powerful jet.

In the photo below, the plane can be admired. The observations were made in 2018 using telescopes VLBI Universal Millimeter Set (GMVA), d The Atacama group is millimeter/meter large (ALMA) f Greenland Telescope (GLT). By having these radio telescopes work together, a giant virtual telescope the size of, as it were, Earth was created.

This image shows the jet for the first time with the shadow of the black hole at the center of the galaxy M87. Photo: R.-S. Lu (SHAO), E. Ros (MPIfR), S. Dagnello (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

By the way, the image shows not only the plane created at the black hole, but also the so-called shadow of the black hole. The black hole in question is the one in the galaxy Messier 87 (M87). This name may sound familiar to you. A few years ago, researchers succeeded for the first time in capturing this black hole – or rather, the shadow of its event horizon – on the image. M87 is about 55 million light-years from Earth. The mass of the black hole that contains this galaxy is at least 6.5 billion times that of our Sun.

What is the shadow of a black hole?
Matter orbiting a black hole heats up and emits light. The black hole bends this light and captures part of it. As seen from Earth, this creates a ring-shaped structure around the black hole. The dark region inside the ring is the black hole’s shadow.

As was the case with the first iconic image of this black hole, data from many radio telescopes located around the world were combined, but at a longer wavelength: 3.5 millimeters instead of 1.3 millimeters. “At this wavelength, we can see how the jet originates from the emission ring around the central supermassive black hole,” explains Thomas Kirschbaum of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy.

The image, released today, shows for the first time how the base of the jet is attached to the matter orbiting a supermassive black hole. The region around this black hole and its jet have been observed separately previously. However, this is the first time they have been photographed together and at the same time. In other words, for the first time, astronomers have captured the shadow of M87’s black hole and the powerful jets emanating from this black hole at the same time. “This new image completes the picture by capturing the circumference of the black hole and the jet at the same time,” said Jae-Yong Kim of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy.

How do they arise?
Researchers hope this image will solve the mystery of how black holes eject such jets. “We know that jets are very close to black holes,” says researcher Roo Sen Lu of the Shanghai Observatory. But we still don’t understand exactly how this happens. To investigate this directly, we need to observe the flow as close to the black hole as possible.” And they did quite well with the new image. So the astronomers think the image will help them better understand how black holes give off such high-energy jets. The recording provides at At least scientists have the context to understand how powerful jets form.

the ring
New observations of the black hole at the center of M87 also surprised. The ring captured now is about half the size of the “first image of a black hole”. Using computer simulations, the team attempted to explain the physical origin of the larger, thicker ring. The results indicate that the new image shows more material falling toward the black hole than was seen in the previous image.

The researchers plan to deploy the same network of telescopes again in the future. Because although the current image provided important insights, the team hopes to eventually reveal how supermassive black holes emit powerful jets. “To study the origins of the jet more closely, we plan to observe the region around the black hole at the center of M87 at different radio wavelengths,” says Eduardo Ros from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy. In this way, the researchers hope to learn more about the complex processes that occur near the black hole. Ross continues: “The next few years will be exciting, because we will learn more and more about what is happening near one of the most mysterious regions in the universe.”

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