Astronomers take an amazing picture of black hole eruptions covering a length of 16 full moons

Astronomers often produce images and make discoveries that surprise us and make us wonder what the universe might otherwise be hiding. Black holes are an example of an object with many promises for astronomical discoveries. Scientists have now created the most detailed image of radio emissions from the nearest supermassive black hole on Earth. This eruption at almost light speed spreads eight degrees across the sky when observed from Earth. This suggests that the eruption could span 16 full moons if they were lined up side by side.

A black hole usually undergoes a cycle of dormancy and activity. It is an area in time-space where the strong gravity does not allow anything – not even light – to escape. Black holes feed on gases that fall inside them and expel material outside, preventing them from growing rapidly. This process creates “radio bubbles” that grow over hundreds of millions of years.

Using the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) telescope in Western Australia, astronomers captured the incredible image of the emission of the black hole at the center of the Centaurus A galaxy, the closest radio galaxy to our own Milky Way, at a distance of about 12 million light years.

The research is published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

Lead author Benjamin McKinley said the image reveals spectacular new details. Previous radio shows were unable to cope with the intense brightness of the jets, and the details of the areas around the galaxy were distorted, McKinley said. He told the Perth-based International Center for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) that the new image overcame these obstacles.

McKinley added that since Centaurus A was so close to Earth and could be observed in detail, much can be learned from it “not only at radio wavelengths but also at all other light wavelengths”.

ICRAR has also produced a video showing the apparent size of the Centaurus A galaxy at different wavelengths.


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