Astronomers capture first direct image of black hole expelling powerful jet
Astronomers have captured the first direct image of a black hole expelling a powerful jet, providing scientists with new insight into how supermassive black holes launch powerful jets. The black hole and its jet are located at the center of the galaxy Messier 87, also known as M87, and the image was obtained through a combination of observations from telescopes in the Global Millimetre VLBI Array (GMVA), the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), of which the European Southern Observatory (ESO) is a partner, and the Greenland Telescope.
The image reveals the jet and shadow of the black hole at the center of the galaxy together for the first time and gives scientists the context needed to understand how the powerful jet is formed. The observations also revealed that the black hole’s ring, shown in the image inset, is 50% larger than the ring observed at shorter radio wavelengths by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT). The new image reveals a greater portion of the matter being pulled towards the black hole compared to what was visible through the EHT.
Scientists plan to observe the region around the black hole at the center of M87 at different radio wavelengths to further study the emission of the jet. The team could distinguish the intricate procedures occurring near the supermassive black hole through making simultaneous observations. “The coming years will be exciting, as we will be able to learn more about what happens near one of the most mysterious regions in the Universe,” concludes Eduardo Ros, scientific coordinator of the department for very long baseline interferometry at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy.
The black hole and jet are located at the center of most galaxies, where the celestial object gobbles up gas, dust, and stars that pass too closely. Black holes often emit high-speed jets of matter from their poles that are almost as fast as the speed of light. The new image shows for the first time how the jet emerges from the ring of emission around the central supermassive black hole.
The observations have provided a fresh perspective on the black hole as well. The initial imaging by EHT only captured a fraction of the accretion disk encircling the central black hole. By changing the observing wavelengths from 1.3 millimeters to 3.5 millimeters, we can see more of the accretion disk, and now the jet, at the same time,” said Toney Minter, one of the researchers involved in the study.
The image was obtained a year after the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) captured the first-ever image of a black hole, and the new image reveals a thicker, fluffier ring that is 50 percent larger than the ring that was first reported. The telescope array's resolution was fine-tuned to capture a greater amount of the intensely hot and luminous plasma encircling the black hole, resulting in the formation of a larger ring.
The object in the image is hypothetical at this stage. The team's ability to create it through mathematical equations and demonstrate its appearance through simulations implies that there may be additional forms of celestial bodies in space that are concealed even from the most advanced telescopes on Earth. While the object is still theoretical, new simulations by Johns Hopkins researchers suggest there could be other celestial bodies in space hiding from even the best telescopes on Earth.
In conclusion, the new image of the black hole and its jet provides scientists with new insight into how supermassive black holes launch powerful jets. The GMVA and the Greenland Telescope, along with ESO as a partner of ALMA, were used to acquire the observations. By making use of this telescope network, upcoming observations will further reveal the mechanism through which supermassive black holes eject high-powered jets.
0. “Astronomers snap 1st-ever direct image of a black hole blasting out a powerful jet (photo, video)” Space.com, 26 Apr. 2023, https://www.space.com/black-hole-jet-first-direct-image-m87
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