A bubble of hot gas spinning at “mind blowing” speeds around a black hole

A bubble of hot gas spinning at “mind blowing” speeds around a black hole

Astronomers said Thursday they have seen a hot bubble of gas spinning clockwise around the black hole at the center of our galaxy at “mind-blowing” speeds. The bubble’s detection, which lasted only a few hours, is expected to shed light on how these invisible, invincible, galactic monsters work.

The IS supermassive black hole Sagittarius A* it lies in the center of the Milky Way some 27,000 light years from Earth, and its massive pull gives our home galaxy its characteristic motion.

The first-ever image of Sagittarius A* was revealed in May by the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration, which links radio dishes around the world to detect light as it disappears into the black hole’s maw.

One of those dishes, the ALMA radio telescope in the Andes mountains in Chile, picked up something “absolutely amazing” in the Sagittarius A* data, said Maciek Wielgus, an astrophysicist at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy.

This is the first image of Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy.  It was captured by the Event Horizon Telescope, an array that combined eight existing radio observatories around the world to create one.

This is the first image of Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. It was captured by the Event Horizon Telescope, an array that combined eight existing radio observatories around the world to create one.

Just minutes before ALMA radio data collection began, the Chandra Space Telescope noticed a “huge spike” in X-rays, Wielgus told AFP.

This burst of energy, thought to be similar to solar flares on the sun, sent a hot bubble of gas floating around the black hole, according to a new study published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

The gas bubble, also known as a hot spot, had an orbit similar to Mercury’s journey around the sun, said study lead author Wielgus.

But while it takes 88 days for Mercury to make that trip, the bubble made it in 70 minutes. That means it traveled about 30 percent of the speed of light.

“So it’s completely, ridiculously-spinning a bubble,” Wielgus said, calling it “mind blowing.”

The scientists were able to track the bubble through their data for about an hour and a half — it’s unlikely that it lasted more than a few orbits before it was destroyed.

Wielgus said the observation supported a theory known as MAD. “Mad like crazy, but also MAD like magnetically captured disks,” he said.

The phenomenon is thought to occur when a magnetic field is so strong at the mouth of the black hole that it stops matter from being sucked inside.

But the material keeps piling up, building up to a “fluid eruption”, Wielgus said, which cuts the magnetic fields and creates a burst of energy.

By learning how these magnetic fields work, scientists hope to build a model of the forces that govern black holes, which remain shrouded in mystery.

Magnetic fields could also help show how fast black holes spin – something that could be of great interest to Sagittarius A*.

Although Sagittarius A* is four million times the mass of our sun, it only shines with a power of about 100 suns, “which is extremely unremarkable for a supermassive black hole,” Wielgus said.

“It’s the faintest supermassive black hole we’ve seen in the universe — we’ve only seen it because it’s so close to us.”

But it’s probably a good thing that our galaxy has a “hungry black hole” at its center, Wielgus said.

“Living near a quasar,” which could shine with the power of billions of suns, “is terrifying,” he said.

By definition, black holes cannot be directly observed because nothing, even light, can escape the inward pressure of their titanic gravity.

But their presence can be detected indirectly by observing the effects of that gravity on the paths of nearby stars and by the radiation emitted across the electromagnetic spectrum from material heated to extreme temperatures as it is absorbed into an “accretion disk”. which rotates quickly and then into the hole itself.

One of the main purposes of the new James Webb Space Telescope is to help astronomers trace the formation and growth of those black holes after the Big Bang.

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