Astronomers Discover a Supermassive Black Hole Capturing X-Rays

Astronomers have recently released a fascinating image of a gigantic radiation beam shooting out from a supermassive black hole into space. According to them, the black hole comes with a particle jet which measures three times longer than the diameter of the Milky Way.

Discovery of the Supermassive Black Hole Capturing X-Rays Across Galaxies:

The NASA scientists usually don’t compare things to a Death Star. But, recently, they observed a new phenomenon through their Chandra X-ray Observatory which changed their perspective. They looked into some composite images obtained from space and observed that a supermassive black hole is continuously stripping material from its nearby stars and other objects with extensive gravity.

According to the astronomers, when the material hits the event horizon or the boundary of the black hole, a massive gravitational blast produces a particle jet. This jet spans nearly 300,000 light years. Moreover, it is three times wider than the entire Milky Way galaxy. The intensity of the gravity is quite great. However, it’s around 500 million light years away from our galaxy in the Pictor A galaxy.

supermassive black hole
Image: NASA

How the Scientists Produced the Composite Image?

The scientists initially collected the X-ray wavelength photos taken by Chandra X-ray Observatory over a period of 15 years. Then they combined them with the radio images obtained from the Australia Telescope Compact Array. The final composite image produced by the scientists contains the red swirls or “radio lobes” from the galaxy.

According to the scientists, the composite image describes the Pictor A Galaxy in detail which is located nearly 500 million light-years away from the Earth. The black hole is located at the center of the galaxy. When the material swirls toward the event horizon of the black hole, a huge amount of gravitational energy is released. This energy produces a jet of charged particles which streams over a distance of 300,000 light-years.

The radio lobes indicate the clouds of surrounding gas from the galaxy. The scientists observed two beams emitting from the black hole in the image. Although, one of them can hardly be pointed out due to its motion away from the line of sight to Earth.

The bright spot at the right of the image in blue color indicates the shock wave created by an X-ray jet. According to the scientists, it is the light equivalent to a supersonic sound blast. The other beam on the left side of the black hole in the image is the counter-jet dimly in red color. The scientists had long suspected its presence; however, they couldn’t identify it until now.

Synchrotron Radiations from the Black Holes:

The astronomers believe that the supermassive black hole is likely to shoot the X-rays through the “synchrotron emissions” phenomenon. In this process, the charged particles are continuously accelerated by the magnetic field as they move out along the jet. This results in the emission of the X-ray particles. However, they are not exactly sure about how that process works.

The scientists once thought that the particles were accelerated into the X-ray band due to the cosmic background radiation. However, they ruled out that theory later on because the jets aren’t bright enough.


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