Scientists have taken pictures of a supermassive black hole about 12 million light-years from Earth
A new study of the nearest actively nourishing supermassive black hole has revealed that the space phenomenon emits radio bubbles, which extend over large areas of space when it feeds on incident gas.
In a piece published in Nature Astronomy on December 22, Dr. Benjamin McKinley of Curtin University Node of the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), who led the study, found that this “most comprehensive” picture to date shows the true extent of the disturbance of space caused by the food of supermassive black holes.
McKinley’s research provides the best images to date of Earth’s nearest neighboring radio galaxy, Centaurus A, a star system 12 million light-years away with a black hole in the center.
The images taken by the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) telescope in the Australian outback show radio bubbles that are formed when black holes feed on incident gas and push material out at almost light speed.
These radio bubbles – or ‘patches’ as they are known by radio astronomers – appear to be 48 times larger than the host galaxy itself and currently extend eight degrees across the sky, approximately the length of 16 of the Earth’s moons laid side by side. .
The patches form “a disk around the black hole, and as the fabric is torn to pieces close to the black hole, powerful rays form on each side of the disk, pushing most of the material back into space, to distances of probably more than a million light-years, ”McKinley said.
He argued that this research overcomes the limitations of existing studies. “Previous radio observations could not handle the extreme brightness of the jets, and the details of the larger area around the galaxy were distorted, but our new image overcomes these limitations.” remarked the scientist.
The astronomer said the study is only the beginning, with other scientists wanting to develop a more complete understanding of how black holes give birth and their impact on the surrounding environment.