Astronomers get unprecedented glimpse of nearby galaxy

Composite image of the Centaurus A galaxy, with powerful jets emanating from the supermassive black hole at its center – © ESO/WFI (optical); MPIFR/ESO/APEX/A.Weiss et al. (submillimeter); NASA / CXC / CFA / R Craft et al. (X-ray) / CC BY 4.0

The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) obtained an image of the plasma jet emitted by a supermassive black hole at frequencies 16 times greater and 10 times higher than previous observations.

unprecedented accuracy

By name and by nature, black holes are virtually invisible, but they can manifest themselves because of the extreme environments they create. As they suck up dust and gases, these substances heat up and glow within a disk, creating a bright background on which the black hole’s silhouette is drawn.

In April 2019, cooperation EHT unveiled the first direct images of a black hole obtained using this method, showing us the supermassive monster at the center of the galaxy Messier 87. Whereas a follow-up scan done earlier this year uncovered the polarization of the light coming from the disk.

With reference to work published in the journal nature astronomy, Collaboration spotted another black hole at galaxy’s center Centaurus A. With a mass of 55 million suns, it is a fraction of a 6.5 billion solar mass black hole M87, more Centaurus A It has the distinction of being an active galaxy, whose central black hole emits huge jets of matter. And it is this phenomenon that the team has recently been able to image with unprecedented accuracy.

Stitching of images of the Centaurus A galaxy, with a zoom in on the new image taken in collaboration with the Event Horizon Telescope – © Radboud University; CSIRO / ATNF / I. Feain et al., R. Morganti et al., N. Junkes et al.; ESO/WFI; MPIFR/ESO/APEX/A. Weiss et al.; NASA / CXC / CFA / R. Craft et al.; Tanami / C. Muller et al.; EHT / M. Jansen et al.

new valuable clues

« This allows us to observe and study for the first time an extragalactic radio jet on a scale smaller than the distance it travels in a day. “, highlighted Michael Janssen, lead author of the study. ” We take a closer look at how a monstrous giant jet launched by a supermassive black hole forms. »

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The clarity of the image provides new clues about the nature of these jets. The radiation appears to be brighter at the edges than at the center, which may rule out some of the scenarios concerning their formation. The team was also able to determine the exact location of the black hole in this region, following the path of the jet to its original location.

According to the researchers, such findings could guide future observations using shorter wavelengths and higher resolution to image black holes.

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About the Author: Tad Fisher

Prone to fits of apathy. Music specialist. Extreme food enthusiast. Amateur problem solver.

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