Astronomers on Wednesday captured a new image showing a supermassive black hole launching a powerful jet of matter away from it.
The black hole, which is 6.5 billion times more massive than the Sun, is located in the center of Messier 87 (M87), an elliptical galaxy 55 million light-years from Earth. The recent observations could help reveal how black hole jets are created, scientists said in a statement.
“The image was obtained with the GMVA, ALMA and the GLT, forming a network of radio-telescopes around the globe working together as a virtual Earth-sized telescope,” a press release posted to the European Southern Observatory’s website explains.
Black holes are places in space where gravity is so strong, even light can not escape, according to NASA.
“We know that jets are ejected from the region surrounding black holes, but we still do not fully understand how this actually happens,” said Ru-Sen Lu of the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory in China, according to the release. “To study this directly we need to observe the origin of the jet as close as possible to the black hole.”
Supermassive black holes sometimes create jets of radiation and particles traveling close to the speed of light. These jets are believed to be the fastest-traveling particles in the universe, often referred to as cosmic rays.
“This new image completes the picture by showing the region around the black hole and the jet at the same time,” said Jae-Young Kim from the Kyungpook National University in South Korea and the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Germany, per the release.