Telescopes from around the world have teamed up to capture unprecedented images of the M87 * supermassive black hole as it blows matter into space at 99 percent of the speed of light.
This is the same famous black hole that was captured by the Event Horizon telescope and was discovered in 2019.
The first edition was a spectacular achievement. It took many years of work and many radio telescopes spanning the globe, combining their observations to depict a region of space not much larger than the solar system at a distance of 55 million light-years.
Now a team of scientists has added data from several telescopes with multiple wavelengths of light, each of which reveals different characteristics of the black hole M87 * and the relativistic plasma jet that explodes into space.
“We knew that the first direct image of a black hole would be innovative,” said astronomer Kazuhiro Hada of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.
“But to get the most out of this remarkable image, we need to know everything we can about the behavior of the black hole at that time by observing the entire electromagnetic spectrum.”
There is much more to the black hole than what we see in the magnified image we see from the shadow and halo of the M87 * above. The supermassive black hole is active, sucking material from the hot disk of dust and gas around it, which means that some very complicated things can happen.
One of them is the ejection of relativistic jets fired from the poles of the black hole.
Nothing we can find at the moment can escape a black hole after crossing the critical proximity threshold, but not all the material in the accretion disk rotating in an active black hole inevitably falls outside the event horizon. A small part of it is somehow directed from the inner region of the accretion disk to the poles, where it explodes into space in the form of jets of ionized plasma at speeds, significant percentages of the speed of light.
Astronomers believe that the magnetic field of the black hole plays a role in this process. According to this theory, the lines of the magnetic field act as a synchrotron that accelerates the material before firing it at great speed.
In the case of M87 *, this is 99 percent of the speed of light – about as fast as relativistic jets can get – and the jet we see extends to about 5,000 light-years in space. The light it emits covers the entire electromagnetic spectrum, from the smallest to the most energetic, so observing it in only one wavelength band would mean that there is no information about the energy of the structure.
So the team added data from telescopes observing jets at multiple wavelengths, including the Hubble Space Telescope for optical light; the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Swift-X-Ray Telescope; the NuSTAR space telescope for high-energy X-rays; Neil Gerells Rapid Observatory for Ultraviolet and Optical Rays; and HESS, MAGIC, VERITAS and the Fermi-Large Area gamma-ray telescope.
Above: Click here for full captions, credit and high resolution version.
The main purpose of this, the researchers said, is to create and release an inherited set of data that astronomers will be able to use for years to study M87 * and its jet to try to gain further insight into the phenomenon. and how it occurs.
“Understanding the acceleration of particles is really essential for our understanding of both the EHT image and the jets, in all their” colors, “said astrophysicist Sera Markoff of the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
“These jets manage to transport the energy released from the black hole to a scale larger than the host galaxy, such as a huge power cord. Our results will help us calculate the amount of power carried and the effect of the black hole jets on its environment. “
The first analysis of the team data is interesting. This shows that during the observations of the Event Horizon telescope in April 2017, the region around it was the darkest we have ever seen. Contrary to the difficulty of imaging the shadow of a black hole, this actually makes things easier, as it means that the M87 * is the brightest thing in its immediate environment, uncovered by glare.
They also found that gamma radiation – which can be obtained by interacting with cosmic rays, whose origin is currently unknown – does not appear near the horizon of black hole events during these observations, but somewhere more far away.
Exactly where there is still a bit of a puzzle, but that’s the beauty of this work – it’s something that scientists will build on for a long time, especially as the Event Horizon telescope continues to work. He is conducting an observation at the time of writing, and this data will give scientists much to consider.
“With the publication of these data, combined with the resumption of observations and improved EHT, we know that many new exciting results are on the horizon,” said astrophysicist Mislav Balokovic of Yale University.
The results are published in Astrophysical Journal Letters.