Event Horizon Telescope: Black hole produces twisting jet – BBC News, BBC News

Event Horizon Telescope: Black hole produces twisting jet – BBC News, BBC News

                                 3C 279 Image copyright                   Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration                                                        
Image caption                                      The right-hand image was captured with a less powerful telescope. It shows the jet streaming away to the lower-right. In the new EHT image on the left, scientists can now see detail where the jet connects to the accretion disc. The supermassive black hole will be somewhere at the disc’s center                              
                                 Presentational white space                      

One year on from publishing the first ever image of a black hole, the team behind that historic breakthrough is back with a new picture . Presentational white space This time we’re being shown the base of a colossal jet of excited gas, or plasma, screaming away. from another black hole at near light-speed.

The scene was actually in the “background” of the original target .

Presentational white space The scientists who operate the Event Horizon Telescope describe the jet Presentational white space in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics . Presentational white space They say their studies of the region of space known as 3C 279 will help them better understand the physics that drives behavior in the vicinity of black holes. (3C) is what astronomers term a quasar – the extremely bright core of a very distant galaxy. This one is about 5.5 billion light-years from Earth. Presentational white space It is well known, and was used as the calibration target to align the performance of the EHT’s eight individual radio telescopes when they simultaneously made their astonishing map of the supermassive black hole at the center of Galaxy M The remarkable resolution achieved by the EHT – put to such great effect with M – – pays dividends again with 3C , because we see previously unrecognized features.

                                                                                                       Image copyright                   EHT Collaboration                                                        
Image caption                                      M 279 ‘s black hole is surrounded by a halo of bright gas pulled inwards by gravity                              

Presentational white space 3C also has a supermassive black hole at its heart. It’s about one billion times the mass of our Sun and its gravity is pulling in and shredding any stars or gas that get too close. This material is likely being accreted on to a disc that winds around the hole, but some of it is being shot back out into space along two jets moving in opposite directions. (In previous images of 3C) , we’ve been able to detect the outline of the jet coming that moves towards us (the one moving in the opposite direction is not detected). But in the new EHT picture, we can resolve detail close to the point where this jet leaves the black hole. What’s more, this base area seems twisted and somewhat offset from the main axis of the jet. Presentational white space “It’s curious, said EHT Collaboration member Dr Ziri Younsi. “We’re seeing a region that’s actually pretty close to the black hole. It could be an interaction layer where the jet couples to the accretion disc and extracts all of its energy from the black hole.

“We don’t really understand how jets are powered by black holes. Black holes, when they rotate rapidly, are the most efficient liberators of energy in the Universe, but the mechanism by which the jet can extract that energy is unknown. There are a few ideas, but we’re not sure yet which one is the right one, “the University College London, UK, researcher told BBC News.


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Media caption M the significance of the first ever image of a black hole
The data in the images of M and 3C was collected by the ENT’s widely dispersed array of radio telescopes in 2020. The project has gone on to collect data on the supermassive black hole that exists at the center of our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Presentational white space “We have that data – of a region we call Sagittarius A *,” said Dr Younsi. “We are working on it right now and although we have some preliminary results, these can’t be shared just yet. We hope to have something perhaps before the end of this year.” The team finds itself in a position to concentrate on this analysis because the observational time it had booked on the EHT array for this year got cancelled in the coronavirus outbreak (A A PDF of the A&A paper describing 3C 320 is available here . Its lead author is Dr Jae-Young Kim from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany.

Image caption                                      Early observations used eight radio telescopes but the EHT aims to get to a network of                              

(The Event Horizon Telescope) is a “virtual telescope” that links a large array of radio receivers – from the South Pole, to Hawaii, to the Americas and Europe. It uses a technique called very long baseline array interferometry (VLBI). This combines the observations from the dispersed network to mimic a telescope aperture that can produce the resolution necessary to perceive a pinprick on the sky. For the EHT, this pinprick is measured in microarcseconds. Presentational white space To convey such performance to the general public, EHT team-members talk about the sharpness of vision as being the equivalent of seeing from Earth something the size of a grapefruit on the surface of the Moon.

                                                                                                       Image copyright                   M.Weiss / CfA                                                        
Image caption                                      Artwork: Quasars like 3C 279 that point one of their jets in our direction are also called blazars                              

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