Black hole M87 is ejecting massive jets of high-energy particles thousands of light years into space

clock • 3 min read

Data from NuSTAR and Chandra observatories was used to measure the X-ray brightness of M87's jet

The supermassive black hole sitting at the heart of Messier 87 (M87) galaxy is spewing massive jets of high-energy subatomic particles thousands of light years into the space, new observations from NASA telescopes have revealed.

On Wednesday, the first-ever direct image of this black hole was revealed by an international team of scientists from the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project.

M87 black hole lies about 54 million light-years from us and is about 6.5 billion times more massive than the Sun.

When EHT project scientists started observing the M87 black hole in April 2017, NASA also tuned its Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, Chandra Observatory, and its NuSTAR satellite to different varieties of X-ray light to observe M87.

Specifically, a team of scientists used data from NuSTAR and Chandra observatories to measure the X-ray brightness of M87's jet, and compared their results with the observations from the EHT project.

They found that M87 black hole is ejecting high-energy particles at about the speed of light. The observations further revealed that the material being ejected is going more than 1,000 light-years away in the space.

High-energy particles in the jet were observed to be originating from a specific area near the event horizon. Notably, scientists found the area to be brightening and fading mysteriously at regular intervals.

Scientists believe the jet of high-energy particles is likely originating from the tangled magnetic fields in the accretion disk of M87 black hole.

The study, in which Chandra and NuSTAR data was analysed, was led by Joey Neilsen, an astronomer at Villanova University, Pennsylvania. The research team carried out the study on behalf of the EHT's Multiwavelength Working Group.

According to Neilsen, X-ray measurements helped the group relate what was happening to the particles near the event horizon with what they actually measured with their telescopes.

Earlier on Wednesday, the first-ever direct image of the black hole M87 was released as part of the EHT project. The image showed an intensely bright ring of fire surrounding a circular dark region in M87 galaxy.

First-ever photograph of black hole M87, released Wednesay

To capture this image, scientists used a global array of eight radio telescopes located in Arizona, Hawaii, Chile, Spain, and the South Pole. The data obtained from these telescopes was merged using very long baseline interferometry' technique. In that way, scientists were able to create a massive virtual telescope, which was effectively as big as Earth itself.

According to the scientists, the image of M87 has finally confirmed the existence of black holes. It also adds further weight to Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity, and could also help solve longstanding puzzles about the nature of black holes.

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