Record-breaking black hole eruption could cover 16 full moons in the sky

Astronomers have produced a detailed image of a massive eruption of the nearest supermassive black hole that spans the size of 16 full moons in the sky.

The image, capturing the radio broadcasts of the material ejected by the black hole at almost the speed of light, shows gigantic plasma lobes extending over a million light years from the center of its home galaxy, Centaur A.

Centaur A, some 12 million light years from Earth, is the fifth brightest galaxy in the sky seen from our planet. At its center is the closest known black hole that actively powers our planet, a monster with a mass of 55 million suns. The black hole devours nearby gas, dust, and other matter, then ejects them in the form of powerful jets that propagate far into intergalactic space, creating the massive bubbles that can be seen on this picture.

New images: Powerful jet emerges from black hole in unprecedented detail

The galaxy itself occupies only a tiny spot in the center of the image. The dots in the background are not stars but other similar ones, but much further away, galaxies. The foreground points are stars in our own galaxy, the Milky Way.

The image was captured with the Murchison Widefield Array Telescope (MWA) in the hinterland of Western Australia, a quiet location without radio interference and with a wide field of view.

The image consists of radio, optical and x-ray observations, said Benjamin McKinley, an astronomer at Curtin University in Australia and lead author of a new study describing the rash. in a report.

The radio plasma emitted by the black hole is displayed in blue and appears to interact with the hot X-ray emitting gas (orange) and cold neutral hydrogen (purple). The red shades reveal the so-called H-alpha spectral lines characteristic of hydrogen which loses electrons.

“Previous radio observations could not handle the extreme brightness of the jets and the details of the larger area surrounding the galaxy were distorted, but our new image overcomes these limitations,” McKinley said.

McKinley said the galaxy appears brighter in the center, where energy is concentrated and where it is most active. As the energy dissipates to the outskirts of the galaxy, galactic matter appears weaker.

Astrophysicist Massimo Gaspari, of the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics, said the study corroborated a new theory known as “haotic cold accretion” (ACC), which is emerging in different fields.

“In this model, clouds of cold gas condense in the galactic halo and rain down on central regions, fueling the supermassive black hole,” Gaspari said in the statement. “Triggered by this rain, the black hole reacts vigorously by sending back energy via radio jets which inflate the spectacular lobes that we see in the image. This study is one of the first to probe in such detail the” CCA “multiphasic time over the full range of scales.”

The study was published Thursday, December 23 in the journal Nature Astronomy.

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