Astronomers Observe A Black Hole Firing A High Energy Bullet

Astronomers Observe A Black Hole Firing A High Energy Bullet

An international team of astronomers, working in conjuction with NASA’s Rossi X-Ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) and the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) radio telescope have caught a black hole in the act of ejecting a highly energetic knot of gas which the astronomers liken to bullets into surrounding space. The astronomers focused their attention on the binary system H1743–322, which is comprised of a star and a neighboring black hole. Just outside of the event horizon of the black hole, the point where nothing can escape, stellar matter from the neighboring star comes together in a swirling disk, drawn by the gravitation of the black hole. The resulting temperature and pressure  gets  the  gas up  to tens of millions of degrees, and  various forces   acting  within the gas force some of it outwards.

Usually, there’s just a steady stream of outflowing energetic gas, but occasionally, the large bullets are formed. The bullets themselves are incredible. These massive blobs of energy burst from opposite sides of the black hole at speeds approaching about a quarter of the speed of light. That’s an enormous output of energy. The black holes in a binary system, like this one, are tiny compared to the supermassive black holes found at the centers of galaxies. The gravity around those black holes is so much greater that these findings may lead to some insight about the enormous energies found near them.

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