Science

Astronomers Watch As A Black Hole's Jet Wobbles Like a Top

Astronomers Watch As A Black Hole's Jet Wobbles Like a Top”

A black hole nearly 8,000 light years away from Earth has caught the eye of astronomers, due to its peculiar, wobbly nature. Its most recent outburst, in 2015, spawned a new wave of interest in the black hole, and it was then that Miller-Jones and his team began the observations for this study. This happened in a way which has never been seen before.

"Many people have this vision of black holes where if something gets too close to a black hole, the black hole will eat the material", said Gregory Sivakoff, a U of A astrophysicist and professor in the department of physics, said Monday.

Scientists likened the odd phenomenon to the 'wobble of a spinning top, ' as it spun rapidly over the span of just a few hours.

The closest regions of the disc are incredibly dense and hot, and extremely radiant; and, as the black hole feeds, it shoots out powerful jets of plasma, presumably from its poles. "This appears to be causing the inner part of the disk to wobble like a spinning top and fire jets out in different directions as it changes orientation".

"This is one of the most extraordinary black hole systems I've ever come across", said lead author, Associate Professor Miller-Jones from the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR).

The black hole is slowly devouring the red giant; the material siphoned away from the star is orbiting the black hole in the form of an accretion disc, a bit like water circling a drain.

Particularly in V404 Cygni, the black hole's spin axis is misaligned from the plane of its orbit with its starry companion, which causes the frame-dragging effect to "warp" the inner area of the disk and then pull the warped portion around with it. Her experience in writing also intersects the IT niche, given the fact that she worked as a content editor for firms that produce software for mobile devices.

Normally, when astronomers see jets spewing from a black hole, the features are oriented in one direction.

The research used observations from the Very Long Baseline Array, a continent-sized radio telescope made up of 10 dishes across the United States, from the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean to Hawaii. "So it's as if the black hole is burping out some material as it's eating".

The black hole itself is rotating and the gravitational pull is so strong, it's actually pulling nearby space and time around with it.

An artist's impression of twisted space-time around the spinning black hole.

'That could include a whole bunch of other bright, explosive events in the Universe, such as supermassive black holes feeding very quickly or tidal disruption events, when a black hole shreds a star'.

'It was like trying to take a picture of a waterfall with a one-second shutter speed'.

Since the V404 Cygni black hole didn't follow the same rules as conventional blackholes, the ICRAR team has to combine 103 images of the black hole, each around 70 seconds long, in order to observe the phenomenon.

"The inner part of the accretion disk was precessing and effectively pulling the jets around with it".

Our best explanation for such rapid changes is that the jets were being redirected by a wobbling inner accretion flow around a spinning black hole. The binary star system consists of a normal star in orbit with a black hole. Explaining this mysterious occurrence requires using an effect of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity.



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