Astronomers capture black hole "dragging spacetime"

Astronomers capture black hole

Astronomers have discovered a black hole, nearly 8,000 light-years from Earth, pumping rapidly swinging plasma jets into the surrounding universe at a speed so fast that it is dragging spacetime.

The global team of astronomers, which included Dr Alex Tetarenko working at the East Asian Observatory in Hilo, published their findings today in the journal Nature.

Monday's Nature report comes from a project launched in Charlottesville by James Miller-Jones, originally a scientist at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory and now a professor at Curtin University in Perth, Australia; co-author and UVA astronomy chair Craig Sarazin; and Greg Sivakoff, who completed his graduate and post-doctoral studies at UVA before becoming a professor at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada.

To the left of the clip, a star can be seen being pulled into the black hole.

The differing factor in V404 Cygni is that it is contemplated that the disk of matter and black hole are disarranged.

This misalignment means that the inner part of the black hole's disk is wobbling like a spinning top, causing the jets to be fired out in different directions as it changes orientation.

V404 Cygni is a binary system in the constellation of Cygnus.

It is relatively smaller in size compared to other black holes, with mass about nine times that of the Sun.

"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.

V404 Cygni was initially recognized as a black hole in 1989 when it emanated an enormous flare-up of jets and radiations. Previous outbursts associated with this black hole were noted in 1938 and 1956 and found on archival photographic plates.

The whole world stopped and stared, facing all telescopes in the direction of the outburst. "So we have this unbelievable observational coverage".

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

Some of the particles falling into the black hole escape through relativistic jets, long beams of energetic plasma that flow from the black hole's axis of rotation at more than half the speed of light. These jets were firing off in different directions at different rates over a couple of hours.

"Our best explanation is that this is actually caused by an effect of Einstein's general relativity, whereby the black hole is spinning and it's pulling space and time around with it", he said.

While V404 Cygni's accretion disk is about 10 million kilometers wide, Miller-Jones pointed out that only the inner few thousand kilometers is warped.

"The inner part of the accretion disk was precessing and effectively pulling the jets around with it", Miller-Jones said. "You can think of it like the wobble of a spinning top as it slows down, only in this case, the wobble is caused by Einstein's general theory of relativity", he added. Miller-Jones is also an associate professor at Curtin University's International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research.

The discovery was made using a continent-sized radio telescope, called the "Very Long Baseline Array", with 10 dishes across the United States, from the Caribbean to Hawaii.

"This is the only mechanism we can think of that can explain the rapid precession we see in V404 Cygni", Miller-Jones said in the press release.

It's so fast that the usual method radio telescopes use for imaging space were practically useless.

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

Dr Alex Tetarenko outside of the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope Office in Hilo, Hawaiʻi. At its center is a black hole that is now in the process of absorbing a low mass nearby star. So, they captured more than 100 images with 70-second exposures and pieced them together into an animation.

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