First direct image of a black hole expelling a powerful jet
For the first time, astronomers have observed, in the same image, the shadow of the black hole at the centre of the galaxy Messier 87 (M87) and the powerful jet expelled from it. The observations were done in 2018 with telescopes from the Global Millimetre VLBI Array (GMVA), the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), of which ESO is a partner, and the Greenland Telescope (GLT). Thanks to this new image, astronomers can better understand how black holes can launch such energetic jets.
Most galaxies harbour a supermassive black hole at their centre. While black holes are known for engulfing matter in their immediate vicinity, they can also launch powerful jets of matter that extend beyond the galaxies that they live in. Understanding how black holes create such enormous jets has been a long standing problem in astronomy. “We know that jets are ejected from the region surrounding black holes,” says Ru-Sen Lu from the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory in China, “but we still do not fully understand how this actually happens. To study this directly we need to observe the origin of the jet as close as possible to the black hole.”
The new image published today shows precisely this for the first time: how the base of a jet connects with the matter swirling around a supermassive black hole. The target is the galaxy M87, located 55 million light-years away in our cosmic neighbourhood, and home to a black hole 6.5 billion times more massive than the Sun. Previous observations had managed to separately image the region close to the black hole and the jet, but this is the first time both features have been observed together. “This new image completes the picture by showing the region around the black hole and the jet at the same time,” adds Jae-Young Kim from the Kyungpook National University in South Korea and the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Germany.
Read more in the original article: ESO