Astronomers spot black hole ejecting 'wobbly jets' of plasma and pulling around space and time with it

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Artist's illustration of black hole V404 Cygni. Image: ICRAR
Image:

Artist's illustration of black hole V404 Cygni. Image: ICRAR

Black hole V404 Cygni shoots out jets of plasma in different directions in quick succession

Astronomers have spotted an "extraordinary" black hole that is not only spewing jets of plasma in a manner never seen before, but also pulling space and time around at the same time.

Labelled V404 Cygni, it is located about 8,000 light years away from Earth.

It is relatively smaller in size compared to other black holes, with mass about nine times that of the Sun.

We've never seen this effect happening over such short timescales

According to scientists, V404 Cygni consumes matter from a companion star, whose mass is about 70 per cent that of the Sun. As the material from the star streams toward V404 Cygni, it creates a rotating accretion disk around the black hole.

The study was led by James Miller-Jones, of the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), in association with 22 colleges from various institutions.

The team observed this black hole in 2015 using the National Science Foundation's Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA). VLBA is a network of 10 telescopes located in different parts of the world.

The black hole is spinning and is pulling space and time around with it

According to scientists, the most unique feature of V404 Cygni is the way in which it spits out matter. The team observed the black hole to be shooting out jets of plasma in different directions in quick succession.

"We've never seen this effect happening over such short timescales," said James Miller-Jones.

"Our best explanation is that this is actually caused by an effect of Einstein's general relativity, whereby the black hole is spinning and is pulling space and time around with it," he added.

Rapid movement of V404 Cygni's plasma jets seems to be caused by a mis-alignment between the rotation of the black hole and the disc of material swirling around it

When the researchers viewed the initial image from the VLBA, they found a blur in the images because of the fast-moving jets. To get better images, they captured over 100 images with 70-second exposures and merged those images to create an animation.

According to researchers, rapid movement of V404 Cygni's plasma jets seems to be caused by a mis-alignment between the rotation of the black hole and the disc of material swirling around it. This mis-alignment causes the inner part of the accretion disc to wobble like a spinning top, thereby pulling at the jets around it.

The findings of the study are published in the journal Nature

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