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NuSTAR Probes Black Hole Jet Mystery

Bringing some of the mysteries of the universe a little closer to home.

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Wed Nov 01, 2017 5:03 pm

Black holes are famous for being ravenous eaters, but they do not eat everything that falls toward them. A small portion of material gets shot back out in powerful jets of hot gas, called plasma, that can wreak havoc on their surroundings. Along the way, this plasma somehow gets energized enough to strongly radiate light, forming two bright columns along the black hole’s axis of rotation. Scientists have long debated where and how this happens in the jet.

Astronomers have new clues to this mystery. Using NASA's NuSTAR space telescope and a fast camera called ULTRACAM on the William Herschel Observatory in La Palma, Spain, scientists have been able to measure the distance that particles in jets travel before they "turn on" and become bright sources of light. This distance is called the "acceleration zone." The study is published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Wed Nov 01, 2017 5:04 pm

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Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This artist’s concept shows a black hole with an accretion disk -- a flat structure of material orbiting the black hole – and a jet of hot gas, called plasma.

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Owlscrying
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Unread post Wed Nov 01, 2017 5:05 pm



This annotated movie shows a zoom into the giant elliptical galaxy M87. Inside that galaxy is one of the most massive black holes discovered to date.

Hubble astronomers are focusing their attention on a narrow jet of gas and radiation coming from that black hole. That jet seems to have a mysterious glowing knot in it — one that is brightening and fading over a period of several years.

 

 
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