March 1, 2024

Earth-sized virtual telescope reveals energy flows near black hole

Figure 2. “Morphology of the full intensity jet of 3C 84 at different wavelengths. From left to right, we display measurements at 15, 43, 86 (images), and 228 GHz (model). The horizontal line below each image represents the angular scale. The effective beam sizes corresponding to these observations are, from left to right, 0.40 × 0.60 mas, 0.34 × 0.16 mas, 0.11 × 0.04 mas, and 107 × 14 μas. RS denotes the Schwarzschild radius.”

The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) Collaboration and scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR) in Germany used an array of Earth-sized radio telescopes to observe the jet base of an evolving plasma jet stream from a supermassive black hole. at an unprecedented speed. angular resolution.

As Space reports, the international team of scientists used the planetary-scale telescope to observe the magnetic structure of the radio galaxy 3C 84, Perseus A, which hosts one of the closest active supermassive black holes in Earth’s neck of the cosmic forest. Although it is 230 million light years from Earth, it is still relatively close.

The findings demonstrate that the EHT, which is celebrated and known for its increasingly detailed images of the supermassive black hole M87*, can also be used to study the magnetic fields of black holes. These magnetic forces are vital to understanding the nature of black holes, specifically how they accumulate matter and eject powerful jets, which can themselves reach beyond their host galaxies.

“Their findings also shed light on how mass is accumulated in the supermassive black hole, which is through advection. It is believed that the falling matter forms a strongly magnetized disk, called a magnetically trapped disk. In this scenario, the magnetic field lines within the accretion disk become tightly coiled and twisted, preventing the efficient release of magnetic energy. Furthermore, our study implies that the black hole 3C 84 is rotating rapidly, thus favoring an association between jet launches and the rotations of large black holes,” explains an MPifR press release.

EHT black hole magnetic fields and energy jets in Perseus A
Figure 1. “(u, v)-coverage of 3C 84, as observed with VLBA (15 GHz, green), VLBA (43 GHz, blue), GMVA (86 GHz, red), and EHT (228 GHz, black). Dashed circles indicate fringe spacings characterizing the instrumental resolution of 60 μas and 30 μas. ‘Chile’ denotes ALMA and APEX stations. ‘Hawaii’ denotes the stations SMA and JCMT. With higher frequency observations and longer EHT baselines, we improve angular resolution by a factor >2.”

EHT images of supermassive black hole M87* have shown the direction of light as it oscillates around the black hole. The property of light, its linear polarization, offers insights into the underlying magnetic field.

In the case of the 3C 84 black hole, the strong linear polarization “suggests” a powerful and ordered magnetic field. These magnetic fields are currently believed to be the “driving force” behind the powerful plasma jets, which comprise and expel matter not consumed by the black hole.

The properties of these plasma jets are immensely fascinating because plasma jets emitted by supermassive black holes demonstrate the apparently stronger power of magnetic fields relative to the black hole’s gravitational pull. All matter within reach of a black hole’s immense gravity, including light itself, is consumed.

EHT black hole magnetic fields and energy jets in Perseus A
This artist’s illustration shows how a supermassive black hole with a mass millions to billions of times that of the Sun draws matter toward it into its accretion disk. “Also shown is a jet of energetic particles, believed to be powered by the rotation of the black hole. Regions near black holes contain compact sources of high-energy X-ray radiation that are thought, in some scenarios, to originate from the base of these jets. This high-energy X-ray illuminates the disk, which reflects it, making the disk a source of rotation rate of the black hole.” | Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Understanding how the black hole’s gravitational force relates and interacts with the magnetic fields that surround it is a subject of extensive study. Magnetism is vital to understanding black holes because these magnetic forces can have a dramatic effect on the nature and evolution of the galaxy that hosts the black hole, especially if the rate at which a black hole rotates and the way plasma jets are driven differently. connected, as it appears to be.

“Why are black holes so good at producing powerful jets? This is one of the most fascinating questions in astrophysics,” says Maciek Wielgus, researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy. “We hope that general relativistic effects occurring just above the black hole’s event horizon may be the key to answering this question. These high-resolution observations are finally paving the way for observational verification.”

As powerful telescope arrays like the EHT provide observations of energy flows around supermassive black holes, and scientists study how this energy extends throughout the host galaxy, significant advances are made in understanding supermassive black holes. are inevitable, and the fundamental theories that underpin collective understanding of the very nature of the Universe will be verified through observation for the first time – or perhaps disproved.

EHT black hole magnetic fields and energy jets in Perseus A
Event Horizon Telescope antennas used in April 2017 (clockwise from top left): APEX, Pico Veleta, LMT, JCMT, ALMA, SMT (Heinrich Hertz Telescope), SMA, SPT. | Credit: © APEX, IRAM, G. Narayanan, J. McMahon, JCMT/JAC, S. Hostler, D. Harvey, ESO/C. Malin

“We are extremely excited because these results are a significant step towards understanding galaxies like 3C 84. Together with our international partners, we are striving to improve the capabilities of the Event Horizon Telescope to enable an even more detailed look at the formation of jets around the black. holes”, concludes Anton Zensus, director of MPIfR and head of the Radio Astronomy/VLBI research department.

VLBI stands for very long baseline interferometry, a process by which multiple telescopes observe the same object. The collected signals are then combined, effectively creating a virtual telescope the size of the connected observatories. In the case of EHT, the matrix is ​​the diameter of the Earth itself.

Credits: The new study, “Ordered magnetic fields around the central black hole 3C 84”, was published on February 1, 2024 in the journal “Astronomy & Astrophysics”. The extensive research team was led by Georgios Filippos Paraschos of MPIfR.

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