A few years ago, astronomers saw for the first time a patch of cosmic darkness long thought invisible — a black hole, an elusive, powerful monster so dense that not even light can escape its gravity.
black holes They are known to devour anything and everything that comes close to them, such as gas, stars, planets and even other black holes. But this mysterious donut-shaped black hole (later Adjusted by artificial intelligence In a slim ring) in the galaxy M87 is slowly breaking down black hole stereotypes. For one thing, he seems to be returning the favor Universe By losing energy.
Two months ago, this very one Giant black hole Approximately 55 million light-years from Earth, known as M87*was studied using Event horizon telescope (EHT), which combines data from multiple radio telescopes around the world to create a virtual Earth-sized telescope. Observations showed that M87* was present RotationIt pulls with it its magnetic field and the nearby fabric of space and time.
Related: A study has found that the first black hole ever photographed by humanity is rotating
Earlier this month, astronomers who analyzed an image of the black hole obtained by the EHT in 2021 found that its magnetic field… Strong enough To sometimes prevent it from eating nearby matter.
Now, a new analysis of the image by a subset of this team has revealed that the magnetic field is also responsible for slowing down the speed of the rotating black hole, such as the slowing down of the spinning top over time.
“We were able to say conclusively that the 2021 EHT image shows that energy is flowing close to the black hole,” Andrew Chell, an astrophysicist at Princeton University in New Jersey and lead author of the new study, told Space.com. “We need future, highly sensitive images to determine 100% whether the energy is flowing from the surface of the black hole itself.”
The energy released into the depths of space during this self-braking process flows like “Jedi lightsabers a million light-years long” through structures called relativistic jets, which extend up to 10 times longer than our body. milky way Galaxy, said study co-author Alexandru Lobsaska of Vanderbilt University in Tennessee statement.
“If you took the Earth and turned it all into TNT and blew it up 1,000 times a second for millions and millions of years, that’s the amount of energy we’d get out of M87,” said study co-author George Wong. Princeton University.
The fact that black holes can lose energy was one of the predictions Einstein’s theory of relativity. Scientists knew that some energy loss could be due to magnetic fields, but they didn’t know exactly how this process worked.
The results of the new study indicate that the energy flowing from the black hole leaves in the direction of its magnetic field. The study team is also examining a purely theoretical, but nonetheless exciting, possibility that the energy bursting from M87* could flow into a different black hole.
The outward flow of energy is also likely to push the jets emanating from the black hole, which previous research has shown vary on an 11-year cycle. Models show that the amount of energy coming out of the black hole is similar to what an airplane needs, although astronomers aren’t quite sure yet.
Future observations of M87* using EHT could bring them closer to a definitive answer. Work is also underway on the next generation EHT, which is expected to add more antennas to the virtual telescope network for sharper images and Maybe even videos Of black holes.
“I think it’s very likely that the black hole was the power source for the plane, but we can’t prove that,” Lobsaška said. “Until now.”
This research was described in A paper Published last week in the Astrophysical Journal.