Black hole plasma spider dragging space-time


Astronomers have discovered a black hole, nearly 8,000 light-years from Earth, pumping rapidly swirling plasma jets into the surrounding universe at such rapid speed that it is dragging space-time.

The research, published in the journal Nature, shows jets of the black hole of V404 Cygni behaving in a way never seen before in such short time scales.

The jets seem to be spinning fast with high-velocity plasma clouds – possibly just a few minutes away – shooting out of the black hole in different directions.

"This is one of the most extraordinary black hole systems I have ever encountered," said Associate Professor James Miller-Jones of the Curtin University Nucleus in Australia of the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR).

Like many black holes, it is feeding on a nearby star, pulling the gas away from the star and forming a disk of material that circles the black hole and spirals toward it under gravity.

"What's different about the Cygni V404 is that we think the material disk and the black hole are misaligned," Miller-Jones said in a statement.

"This seems to be making the inner part of the disc rock like a top and shoot jets in different directions as it changes orientation," he said.

As the black hole rotates, it drags space-time with it, leading to precession of the swollen internal accretion disk, the researchers said.

V404 Cygni was first identified as a black hole in 1989 when it launched a large explosion of jets and radiation.

Astronomers looking at photographic filing plates then encountered previous explosions in observations of 1938 and 1956.

Miller-Jones said that when the Cygni V404 experienced another very bright explosion in 2015, lasting two weeks, telescopes around the world focused on studying what was happening.

"They all jumped into the blast with any telescopes they could throw at it, so we have this incredible observational coverage," he said.

When Miller-Jones and his team studied the black hole, they saw their jets behaving in ways never seen before.

Where jets are often thought to shoot directly from black-pole poles, these jets were fired in different directions at different times, the researchers said.

They were changing direction very quickly – in no more than a few hours, they said.

Miller-Jones said the change in jet movement was because of the accretion disc – the rotating disc of matter around a black hole.

He said that the accretion disk of the Cygni V404 is 10 million kilometers wide, and the few thousand miles inside were swollen and wobbling during the blast.

"The inner part of the accretion disk was precessor and effectively pulled the jets with it," Miller-Jones said.

"You can think of it as the spinning of a spinning top when it slows down – only in this case, the oscillation is caused by Einstein's theory of general relativity," he said.

(This story was not edited by the Business Standard team and generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)


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