Astronomers capture image of black hole spitting violent shower

James Marshall
April 8, 2020

According to The Guardian, quasar is in the constellation Virgo and produces two plasma jets, one of which is directed to the Ground, which facilitates the observation.

The first image of a black hole captured by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) is regarded as a scientific sensation.

At the center of most galaxies is a supermassive black hole. But sometimes those black holes are violently active, and 3C 279 is in the latter category.

The staff say the intense blob on the left of the image is considered the disc of fuel and mud swirling across the black hole, with the jet of plasma depicted by a stream of much less intense purple options apparently emanating from it.

Scientists involved in the research also think that the jet's unusual structure could help explain why the material in the jet appears to be moving toward us at a whopping 20 times the speed of light, a complex optical illusion.

"For 3C 279, the combination of the transformative resolution of the EHT and new computational tools for interpreting its data have proved revelatory", says astrophysicist Avery Broderick from the Perimeter Institute in Canada.

Such structures are formed from supermassive black holes named quasars, which wind magnetic fields as they spin at speeds approaching half the speed of light, resulting in high-energy jets that contain the material surrounding the black hole.

They actually did this back in April 2017 with the Event Horizon telescope. Sometimes those black holes are quiescent, like the one at the center of our Milky Way. Black holes, after they rotate quickly, are probably the most environment friendly liberators of power within the Universe, however the mechanism by which the jet can extract that power is unknown. This one is about 5.5 billion light-years from Earth. Now we see unexpected changes in the shape of the jet in 3C 279, and we are not done yet. But in the new EHT picture, we can resolve detail close to the point where this jet leaves the black hole.

"It's curious", said EHT Collaboration member Dr Ziri Younsi.

But, Younsi added, questions remain, including what exactly the plasma of the jet is composed of, and exactly how the jet couples with the black hole.

Here, where we expected to find the region where the jet forms by going to the sharpest image possible, we find a kind of perpendicular structure.

We can consider ourselves lucky because our planet exists in a pretty safe region of the Cosmos. As we told previous year: "this is just the beginning".

"It is actually very far away", said 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 PDF of the A&A paper describing 3C 279 is available here. The global team led by Jae-Young Kim from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn studied the shape of the plasma beam near its baseline, where high-energy and variable gamma radiation is believed to be generated.

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.

The telescopes work together using a technique called very long baseline interferometry (VLBI).

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.

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