New Stunning Image Revealed Intense Activity Near a Supermassive Black Hole

The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) team revealed the first radio picture of M87’s core black hole in May 2022. It was an incredible discovery based on observations made with a global network of radio telescopes. They just re-released an improved, crisper photograph of the black hole’s “ring of light.”

A group of researchers from Europe, Korea, and China has gone one step farther. They shared another incredible image of this beast this week, this time in a little different spectrum of radio emissions. It easily demonstrates the connection between the supermassive black hole, its luminescent ring, and the widely recognized fast-moving jet.

Figure 1 Messier 87 (M87) is an enormous elliptical galaxy located about 55 million light-years

How was the photograph taken?

This newest image was created utilizing a large number of radio telescopes. The Global mm Very Large Baseline Array (GMVA), the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), and the Greenland Telescope (GLT) were among them. Their cumulative observations revealed minute features in the area surrounding the galactic center. It’s the first time all three primary components of the thing have been photographed together.

This black hole, with a mass 6.5 billion fold that of our sun, was the subject of the world’s first image of such an object, which was unveiled in 2019. Last year, an identical black hole was photographed.

For the very first time, the image captures the whole system surrounding a black hole. It depicts the foundation of the hot plasma jet, a fuzzy ring of light from hot plasma falling into the black hole, and a center dark region – sort of a donut hole – caused by the existence of the black hole. After solids, liquids, and gases, plasma is a substance that is so heated that some or all of its atoms are divided into extremely energetic subatomic particles.

The 2018 observations show the location in radio light with a greater wavelength than the EHT picture. It now measures 3.5 mm rather than 1.3 mm. “At this wavelength, we can see how the jet emerges from the ring of emission around the central supermassive black hole,” explains Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy’s Thomas Krichbaum. An astrophysical jet is the material pouring out from M87. It comprises overheated (ionized) materials that is rapidly ejected across an axis of rotation.

Figure 2 The new PRIMO reconstruction of the black hole in M87 is in the center. The original radio image from EHT is at left. This is based on a newly “cleaned-up” image from the Event Horizon Telescope. Credit: Lia Medeiros et al. / ApJL, 2023

Future of these observations made by astronomers?

Another remarkable aspect of the study is the ring of light that surrounds M87’s supermassive black hole. It’s simply a deception. Friction with other matter and collisions with magnetic fields heat matter as it revolves around. As a result, it emits light. The black hole’s enormous gravitational pull bends and traps part of the light. This results in what seems to be a ring. It’s seen in the EHT photograph of M87’s black hole.

Figure 3  Jet escaping from M87

This new sighting of the jet and the black hole is the system’s first next-generation perspective. Future research will be conducted using networked radio telescopes. They’ll keep looking at the relationship among black holes and their jets. “We plan to observe the region around the black hole at the center of M87 at different radio wavelengths to further study the emission of the jet,” Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy’s Eduardo Ros said.

Lu, Krichbaum, and Akiyama are part of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) project, which began in 2012 with the objective of precisely viewing within close proximity of a black hole. A black hole’s event boundary is the point past which everything – stars, planets, gas, dust, and all electromagnetic waves – is pulled into disappearance.

The researchers would be able to untangle all of the complicated events that take place around the supermassive black hole if they could conduct simultaneous observations with this array and the EHT. They will be fascinated not just by the jet, but also by the physics and activities of the accretion disk from which the jet launches. “The coming years will be exciting, as we will be able to learn more about what happens near one of the most mysterious regions in the universe,” Ros said.

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