A composite image of Centaurus A, revealing plasma jets emanating from the galaxy’s central black hole.

Astronomers imaged jets of hot gas swirling out of a black hole at the heart of a nearby galaxy.
Their findings suggest that all jets resemble one another, regardless of their black hole’s mass.
In 2019, the same researchers zoomed in on a black hole 6.5 billion times the mass of our sun.

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At the heart of every galaxy lies a supermassive black hole, which consumes everything that comes within reach of its gravitational pull – almost everything, that is.

Scientists have spotted plasma jets – streams of energy and hot matter – fleeing the core of certain black holes at one-third the speed of light. Researchers still aren’t certain how these jets form or escape celestial voids. But a new study gives astronomers more insight into the relationship between jets and their black hole parents.

Researchers at the Event Horizon Telescope collaboration – a group that reconstructed the first-ever image of a black hole two years ago – imaged plasma jets spewing from a black hole at the center of the Centaurus A galaxy, about 13 million light-years from Earth.

Their observations reveal that all jets closely resemble one another, regardless of their black hole’s mass. The jets are merely scaled in size, meaning smaller jets come from smaller black holes.

A reconstructed image of a plasma jet shooting from the black hole at the center of Centaurus A.

Even the smallest of these jets can spread out far across the universe, though.

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“They disperse out to form gigantic bubbles of hot gas that are 100,000 light-years in size,” Michael Janssen, an astronomer with the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy and Radboud University and lead author of the new study, told Insider.

Up close and personal with a supermassive black hole

To image the Centaurus A jet, Janssen’s team relied on data collected in April 2017 by eight radio telescopes synced up across the globe, forming one Earth-sized instrument. So the image is a reconstructed view, not a photograph.

“Think of looking into a mirror you’ve smashed to pieces,” Janssen said. “Each shard can show you a little bit of your face. By using the limited information you get from each shard, you can piece together what you look like.”

A view of a plasma jet coming out of the black hole at the center of the Messier 87 galaxy.

This isn’t the first time scientists have looked at plasma jets from a black hole. In 2011, an international team also imaged Centaurus A’s jets, but the new images are ten times more accurate and 16 times sharper than previous ones.

“We hit a magnification factor of 1 billion,” Janssen said. “We’re looking at the jet in unprecedented resolution immediately at the region where it’s just being born and launched by the …read more

Source:: Business Insider

      

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