The Chandra X-Ray Observatory has captured a distant black hole discharging speedy jets of material.
We shouldn’t worry because the black hole is approximately 10,000 light-years away from Earth. It’s more of a show than a danger. Here is what you need to know.
A Black Hole’s Odd Behaviour Examined
You’ve probably thought that nothing could escape a black hole. That’s right, nothing can. The material recently detected by astronomers isn’t coming out of the black hole. It’s actually coming from the material surrounding the cosmic feature, being heated by that movement.
Those jets of material are dubbed astrophysical jets or relativistic jets. They’re released by whirling disks of material known as accretion disks. The disks can also be found around things such as neutron stars and pulsars, or as in this case, around a black hole.
The black hole in question is named MAXI J1820+070. It’s a stellar-mass black hole, approximately eight times as massive as our host star, and has a binary companion as a friend. It’s companion, however, isn’t another black hole, but a star.
Moreover, the material in the disk is doomed. The black hole will absorb much of it. But not all of the material will be drawn into the black hole. The material in the disk can also twirl around the black hole for a long time.
That’s where the jets come from, and some of the material in the disc is discharged as jets. Chandra succeeded in capturing these jets, based on four observations – one in November 2018 and the others in February, May, and June 2019.
What did astronomers found was even more intriguing. They measured the jets’ velocity, and the northern jet moved at 60 % the speed of light, away from us. The southern jet moved at 160 % the speed of light towards us. This event is something called “superluminal motion.”
In superluminal motion, the jet of material moving towards the observer seems to be transgressing the velocity of light limit. But, it’s not.
What’s happening is that the jet is passing at near light speed. And the light coming from the material is moving at light speed because it has no choice – mixed, such things produce the illusion that the light is breaking the light-speed limit. Finally, the jets of material are moving at the same speed, over 80 % of the speed of light. So, it’s nothing but a show.
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