First joint image of a black hole with a jet

radio astronomy

Robert Klatt

Close-up of the accretion current and accretion current of the M87 black hole*

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  • with Radio telescope fusionwho share one Formation of a hypothetical Earth-sized antennaand for the first time a joint image of astronomers A black hole with its jet to make
  • Record matches 1977 The supposed Blandford-Znaik operation And it helped To examine theoretical models of astronomy

A consortium of radio telescopes, which has formed a hypothetical Earth-sized antenna, has made the first joint image of the M87 black hole and its jets. This enabled astronomy to test theoretical models.


Bonn (Germany). In 2019, astronomers used the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) to image the M87* black hole, which is about 55 million light-years away. It was the first image of a black hole. Meanwhile, astronomers have also been able to image the Einstein ring of photons, the black hole’s radiation stream and energetic particles, and observe the oscillating event horizon.


An international team including Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR) f European Southern Observatory (ESO) has now managed, for the first time, to create a joint image of the M87* black hole and its jet. According to what was published in the specialized magazine nature They used a combination of telescopes from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), Global Millimeter VLBI Array (GMVA) and Greenland Telescope (GLT). Together, these radio telescopes form a hypothetical antenna about the size of Earth.

In contrast to the historic image of the M87* black hole, telescopes in the current survey detected radio waves with a slightly longer wavelength of 3.5 millimeters instead of 1.3 millimeters. These longer radio waves are generated primarily by accelerated electrons and experience less distortion from gravitational lensing near the supermassive black hole. As a result, additional spatial features especially the region of origin of the particle beam can be visualized more clearly.


The image shows a larger, thicker ring of light

Ru-Sen Lu of the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory explains that the ring of light around the black central shadow is 50% larger and thicker in the new images.

“The large and thick ring that we see now is explained by gas falling into the black hole.”

The longer wavelength also reveals more material being pulled by the black hole’s intense gravity and orbiting its event horizon. According to Thomas Kirchbaum of MPIfR, it is very important that the new images show where the high-energy jet is leaving the black hole.

“At this wavelength, we can see the jet emerging from the emission ring around the central supermassive black hole.”

The M87* has three parts

According to Kirchbaum, the jet emitted by the M87* black hole consists of a brighter central region and weaker sides. According to the new images, the central area of ​​the plane comes directly from the center of the ring of light.


“We again see the three jet filaments that we already knew from previous observations. But now we see the jet emerging from the emission ring around the black hole.”

As Lu explains, the plane’s observed shape fits the theoretical model of astronomy. The Blandford-Znajek process, proposed in 1977, explains how plasma particles orbiting around an event horizon generate a magnetic field and how the resulting electromagnetic interactions produce particle flux and jet radiating current.

“The jet branches branch out parabolic along an angular position of about 67 degrees from there. The observed parabolic shape fits a model of a jet black hole powered by the Blandford-Znaik process.”

The images also show that the M87* is slightly wider at its base than it should be according to the Blandford-Znajek process.

“This may indicate an additional emissions component beyond the Blandford-Znaik aircraft.”

The authors consider it possible that synchrotron radiation, which originates from electrons accelerating in the accretion disk, may be the triggering factor.

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Teacher in radio astronomy

According to Eduardo Ross of MPIfR, the image is a milestone in radio astronomy.

“The stunning image of the jet and ring in M87 is an important milestone. We now plan to observe the region around the black hole at the center of M87 at various radio wavelengths to study the jet’s emission. The coming years will be exciting as we learn more about what is happening near one of the most mysterious regions in the universe.” .

Nature, doi: 10.1038/s41586-023-05843-w

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