New computer models suggest that the first (and only) black hole ever seen from Earth sends out huge jets of plasma that move at almost the speed of light.
The galaxy Messier 87, or M87, is 55 million light-years from Earth in the Virgo constellation, and it contains a black hole 6.5 billion times the mass of our sun in its centre. The black hole was observed for the first time in 2019 by the Event Horizon Telescope, an international scientific effort.
M87’s black hole fires a relativistic jet, also known as a plasma jet, outwards at almost the speed of light. In a recent study, an international team of researchers used computers to recreate the black hole and its jet in exquisite detail, gaining fresh insights on the black hole and its jet.
The researchers utilised three-dimensional supercomputer models to recreate the M87 black hole’s accretion disc, which is a disc of gas, plasma, and other particles that surrounds and feeds a black hole. Based on known findings, they took into consideration temperatures, matter densities, and magnetic fields that are predicted to occur with this black hole.
The researchers were able to utilise this information to develop a computer model of the black hole area, which they used to monitor and analyse the movement of photons, or light particles, in the black hole’s jet. They then converted the computer model’s photon tracking data into radio pictures and compared it to real-world observations of the black hole.
They discovered that their computer model matched real-world data obtained by radio telescopes and satellites, indicating that it was a reasonably realistic simulation of the black hole zone.
“Our theoretical model of M87’s electromagnetic emission and jet morphology correlates remarkably well with observations in the radio, optical, and infrared spectra,” said Alejandro Cruz-Osorio of Goethe University’s Institute of Theoretical Physics in a release.
While astronomers have been able to analyse and see the black hole in M87 (thanks in part to the picture obtained in 2019), concerns remain regarding how such a strong relativistic jet may form and how it can stay stable while blasting over vast distances in space.
The data acquired about the black hole’s jet from their computer model, according to Cruz-Osorio, demonstrates how the jet may function. He said that it “tells us that the supermassive black hole M87* is probably fast spinning and that the plasma in the jet is intensely magnetised, propelling particles out to scales of thousands of light-years.”
In addition to furthering our understanding of the M87black hole, co-author Luciano Rezzolla, a researcher at Goethe University’s Institute for Theoretical Physics, added that the team’s radio images and computer simulation are consistent with predictions made by Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
“The fact that our pictures are so near to astronomical measurements is yet another crucial indication that Einstein’s general theory of relativity is the most exact and natural explanation for the presence of supermassive black holes in the centres of galaxies,” Rezzolla stated. “While there is still room for alternate hypotheses, our results have shrunk that space significantly.”