Published: Fri, May 03, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Breakthrough Discovery - Mysterious Black Hole Ejects Powerful Jets, As It’s Pulling Spacetime

Breakthrough Discovery - Mysterious Black Hole Ejects Powerful Jets, As It’s Pulling Spacetime

"Since the jets originate from either the inner disk or the black hole, this changes the jet orientation, producing the wobbling observed with the VLBA".

Like many black holes, it is feeding on a nearby star, pulling gas away from the star and forming a disk of material that encircles the black hole and spirals towards it under gravity.

'That could include a whole bunch of other bright, explosive events in the Universe, such as supermassive black holes feeding very quickly or tidal disruption events, when a black hole shreds a star'. "While jets are usually seen moving away in opposite directions from a feeding black hole, it is rare to see the jet direction changing over time, particularly on such short timescales".

The study was led by the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) and it has been published in the journal Nature. As a result of the way black holes normally spin, the matter tends to spray out in the same direction. The black hole is constantly siphoning material from its stellar companion, and as that material gets sucked in, it forms an accretion disk around the black hole.

So there are all kinds of space and time distortions near black holes, where the gravity can be very intense.

"When we did the observations we hoped to figure out when the jet blobs were actually launched but we were never expecting that the direction they were going to be launched in was going to be changing, so this was a complete surprise", added Sivakoff.

Using the Very Long Baseline Array-an intercontinental system of 10 radio telescopes operated from a center in Socorro, New Mexico-the team observed the jets at a high resolution, equivalent to seeing a quarter in NY from the distance of Los Angeles.

When Associate Professor Miller-Jones and his team studied the black hole, they saw its jets behaving in a way never seen before. The outburst happened as the black hole began gobbling up material from a star that orbits it once every six days. Einstein's General Relativity theory predicts time passing more slowly for objects in gravitational fields - like here on Earth - than for objects far from such fields.

V404 Cygni was first identified as a black hole in 1989 when it released a big outburst of jets and material. While studying journalism at Washington State University, Ari found a passion for finding engaging stories.

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Scientists were able to observe a black hole that fires rapid jets of plasma clouds in different directions.

Our team focused on the bright radio emissions from the outflowing jets, using the National Science Foundation's Very Long Baseline Array ( VLBA ).

So to break that down in the case of V404 Cygni, the accretion disc (the mater pulled from the star) is about 10 million kilometers (6.2 million miles) across.

"What is different in V404 Cygni is that we think the disk of material and the black hole are misaligned", Miller-Jones said in a statement.

"The physics occurring on very small scales near the black hole dictates how its energy is channelled outwards into the surrounding galaxy".

"These jets were changing so fast that in a four-hour image we saw just a blur", said Alex Tetarenko in a statement, another of the study authors and East Asian Observatory Fellow.

It's so fast that the usual method radio telescopes use for imaging space were practically useless.

"It was like trying to take a picture of a waterfall with a one-second shutter speed".

Artist's impression of V404 Cygni seen close up. Instead, the researchers produced 103 images, each representing 70 seconds of observation.

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