Scientists capture first direct image of supermassive black hole 6.5 billion times the size of the sun, spewing jets of plasma

  • The jets were captured being ejected from a black hole 6.5 billion times the size of our sun.
  • The image is the first to connect jets to the edge of a supermassive black hole.
  • This could help us understand how the jets, some of the brightest objects in the galaxy, are created.

Scientists have captured the first direct image of a supermassive black hole spewing powerful jets of plasma.

The black hole at the center of the M87 galaxy, 55 million light-years away, is about 6.5 billion times the size of our Sun.

Jets launched from black holes can travel hundreds of thousands of light years and are one of the universe’s greatest mysteries.

Astronomers hope the latest discovery will help us understand exactly how these jets are created – which could help unlock the mystery of how galaxies form.

Black holes don’t just swallow matter, they sometimes shoot it out

Most galaxies, including our own, revolve around a supermassive black hole. Matter enters these black holes, whose centers are so dense that gravity engulfs even light.

So in the latest image, the black hole at the center of M87 can be seen as a bright ring of matter swirling around a dark hole.

However, the jets are created by matter escaping from the black hole.

Material swirling around a black hole must lose speed and energy before it can fall in. But some of the matter doesn’t slow down fast enough and is deflected away from the black hole along the magnetic field lines.

According to NASA, this substance shoots outward in narrow beams, creating jets.

These jets have incredible properties. Not only are they among the brightest objects in the galaxy, but previous research has shown that particles in these jets can travel at nearly the speed of light, which is about 670 million miles per hour.

The image shows what a black hole jet might look like

An artist’s impression of a black hole jet.


A big question is where these jets originate

This new image of the M87 black hole, taken by a collaboration of telescopes from the Global Millimeter VLBI Array, the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array, the European Southern Observatory and the Greenland Telescope, is the first to show how the jet is formed. connects to the ring around the black hole.

Scientists have previously only been able to capture a jet or a black hole individually, an engineering feat in itself, but this is the first time they’ve been able to image them together.

The new image, published Wednesday in the peer-reviewed journal Nature, connects the jets to the edge of the black hole, providing unprecedented insight.

“We know that jets are ejected from the region surrounding black holes, but we still don’t fully understand how this actually happens,” said Ru-Sen Lu, first author of the study and an astronomer at the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory in China. Press Release.

“To study it directly, we need to observe the origin of the jet as close as possible to the black hole,” he said.

“This is the first image where we can determine where the ring is relative to the powerful jet coming out of the central black hole,” said Kazunori Akiyama of MIT’s Haystack Observatory, who developed the imaging software used to visualize the black hole. hole, said The Guardian.

“Now we can begin to delve deeper into questions like how particles are accelerated and heated, as well as many other mysteries surrounding the black hole.”

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