Astronomers share video of black hole outburst

An artistic rendering shows the black hole pulling stellar material from its companion. Photo by NASA/CXC/M.Weiss

May 29 (UPI) —¬†Scientists with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory released a new video Friday showing a pair of jets exploding from a black hole located 10,000 light-years from Earth. Chandra recorded the jets approaching speeds of nearly 80 percent the speed of light.

The black hole and a companion star form a binary system named MAXI J1820+070. The pair were first discovered in 2018, and astronomers have been closely monitoring the system ever since.

X-ray observations captured by Chandra between between November 2018 and May 2019 revealed the signatures of radio jets moving at relativistic velocities.

“The broadband spectra of the jets are consistent with synchrotron radiation from particles accelerated up to very high energies by shocks produced by the jets interacting with the interstellar medium,” researchers wrote¬†in a paper published online last month.

The research is scheduled to be published in the newest edition of the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The black hole from which the jets originated boasts a mass roughly eight times that of the sun, while its companion star’s mass is only half the sun’s mass. The black hole’s strong gravity regularly siphons off material from its stellar neighbor, and the stolen material gets condensed into a disk surrounding the black hole.

Each time the black hole steals more new material, most of the matter gets subsumed into the disk, but some of it rebounds and escapes the edge of the disk, or the event horizon, and speeds back out into space. Astronomers estimate more than 400 million billion pounds of material escaped into space at nearly the speed of light.

Using observations captured by Chandra, as well as images recorded by the PanSTARRS optical telescope in Hawaii, researchers created a movie of the relativistic jets that formed after a feeding frenzy by the black hole in the MAXI J1820+070 system.

Scientists have previously recorded jets emanating from the black hole at radio wavelengths, but the latest X-ray observations offered scientists a prolonged view of the phenomena.

Together, the combination of radio and X-ray emissions revealed the formation of shock waves generated by the collisions between the jets and surrounding interstellar gas and dust.

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