Researchers from Boston University captured a detailed image of a jet of plasma powered by a supermassive black hole. The image was taken by the Event Horizon Telescope from a distance of over 5bn lightyears, from the M87 radio galaxy.
With the one-year anniversary of #EHTblackhole around the corner, the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration has some interesting new results to share! Something is lurking in the heart of quasar 3C 279... Check what it is on our official website: https://t.co/BrTHzPlOYh pic.twitter.com/TNBgR4YZV0— Event Horizon 'Scope (@ehtelescope) April 7, 2020
The enormous plasma jets are a part of a structure known as a 'blazar'. Such structures are formed from supermassive black holes named quasars, which wind magnetic fields as they spin at speeds approaching half the speed of light, resulting in high-energy jets that contain the material surrounding the black hole.
The Event Horizon Telescope captured the first picture of a black hole back in 2019. Now it has produced observations of the motion of relativistic jet emanating from a galaxy in the Virgo constellation known as quasar 3C 279, over the course of one week https://t.co/CGAcntidI5 pic.twitter.com/55BYToQy1G— Massimo (@Rainmaker1973) April 7, 2020
"A lot of that matter [around the black hole] is fated just to cross the event horizon and never return, but some of it can be launched along those powerful magnetic field lines which thread the black hole, and that is what the jet is," said Dr Ziri Younsi of University College London, a co-author of the study, according to the Guardian.
The high resolution of the images has allowed researchers to explore the base of the jet for the first time, the team noted.
"Black holes don’t just swallow up a lot of matter, they spit a lot of it out too because they are highly magnetised and spinning so rapidly," Dr Younsi said, cited by the Guardian.
Many questions remain, Younsi added, including what exactly the plasma of the jet is composed of, and exactly how the jet couples with the black hole.