Spinning black hole powers jet by magnetic flux

August 21, 2020

Black holes are at the center of almost all galaxies that have been studied so far. They have an unimaginably large mass and therefore attract matter, gas and even light. But they can also emit matter in the form of plasma jets - a kind of plasma beam that is ejected from the centre of the galaxy with tremendous energy. A plasma jet can extend several hundred thousand light years far into space.

When this intense radiation is emitted, the black hole remains hidden because the light rays near it are strongly bent leading to the appearance of a shadow. This was recently reported by researchers of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration for the massive black hole in the giant ellipse galaxy M87.

In quasar 3C279 - also a black hole - the EHT team found another phenomenon: At a distance of more than a thousand times the shadow of the black hole, the core of a plasma jet suddenly lit up. How the energy for this jet could get there as if through an invisible chimney was not yet known.

Extremely flickering gamma radiation detected

This quasar has now been observed with the NASA space telescope Fermi-LAT by the astrophysicist Amit Shukla, who until 2018 did research at Julius-Maximilians-Universität (JMU) Würzburg in Bavaria, Germany. He now is working at the Indian Institute of Technology in Indore. Shukla discovered that the core of the jet, which was found in the millimeter wavelength range, also emits high-energy gamma radiation, but with an extremely flickering brightness. This brightness can double within a few minutes, as reported in the journal Nature Communications.

The special pattern of the sequence of brightness changes is characteristic of a universal process called magnetic reconnection, which occurs in many astrophysical objects with strong magnetic fields. Solar activity also has to do with the dynamics of magnetic fields and reconnection. This was recently demonstrated by observing "campfires" in the solar atmosphere with the "Solar Orbiter" mission of the European Space Agency ESA.

Invisibly stored energy is suddenly released

But back to the quasar 3C279: "I saw how the analysis of the data revealed the special pattern of magnetic reconnection in the light curve. It felt as if I had suddenly deciphered a hieroglyph in the black hole alphabet," says Amit Shukla happily.

During reconnection, energy that is initially stored invisibly in the magnetic field is suddenly released in numerous "mini-jets". In these jets, particles are accelerated, which then produce the observed gamma radiation. Magnetic reconnection would explain how the energy reaches the jet's core from the black hole and where it ultimately comes from.

Energy from the spinning black hole

Professor Karl Mannheim, head of the JMU Chair of Astronomy and co-author of the publication, explains: "Spacetime near the black hole in the quasar 3C279 is forced to swirl around in corotation. Magnetic fields anchored to the plasma around the black hole expel the jet slowing down the black hole's rotation and converting part of its rotational energy into radiation".
-end-


University of Würzburg

Related Black Hole Articles from Brightsurf:

Black hole or no black hole: On the outcome of neutron star collisions
A new study lead by GSI scientists and international colleagues investigates black-hole formation in neutron star mergers.

The black hole always chirps twice: New clues deciphering the shape of black holes
A team of gravitational-wave scientists led by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav) reveal that when two black holes collide and merge, the remnant black hole 'chirps' not once, but multiple times, emitting gravitational waves--intense ripples in the fabric space and time--that inform us about its shape.

Wobbling shadow of the M87 black hole
New analysis from the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) Collaboration reveals the behavior of the supermassive black hole in the center of the M87 galaxy across multiple years, indicating the crescent-like shadow feature appears to be wobbling.

How to have a blast like a black hole
Scientists at Osaka University have created magnetized-plasma conditions similar to those near a black hole using very intense laser pulses.

Black hole collision may have exploded with light
Astronomers have seen what appears to the first light ever detected from a black hole merger.

Black hole's heart still beating
The first confirmed heartbeat of a supermassive black hole is still going strong more than ten years after first being observed.

Black hole team discovers path to razor-sharp black hole images
A team of researchers have published new calculations that predict a striking and intricate substructure within black hole images from extreme gravitational light bending.

Planets around a black hole?
Theoreticians in two different fields defied the common knowledge that planets orbit stars like the Sun.

Black hole mergers: Cooking with gas
Gravitational wave detectors are finding black hole mergers in the universe at the rate of one per week.

Going against the flow around a supermassive black hole
At the center of a galaxy called NGC 1068, a supermassive black hole hides within a thick doughnut-shaped cloud of dust and gas.

Read More: Black Hole News and Black Hole Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.