Astronomers detect quasar emitting strange relativistic jets

Hyperaxion Apr 8, 2020

Experts observed an unprecedented “twisted” jet coming from this type of galactic object. The quasar analyzed is 3C 279, which is located 5 billion light-years from Earth.

Almost a year ago, the Event Horizon Telescope project team shared with the world the first photo of a black hole ever made in history. Now, the same team has discovered new information about the 3C 279 quasar, located 5 billion light-years from Earth.

Quasar

Astronomers detect quasar emitting strange relativistic jets
Quasars are black holes in the center of young, active galaxies, surrounded by superheated gas and responsible for releasing huge amounts of radiation. (Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA, M. Kornmesser).

Before detailing the new discovery, it is essential to clarify what a quasar is. This galactic object is a supermassive black hole that shines brightly while “devouring” the matter around it. This is because the giant gravitational pull close to the black hole drags all matter around it.

When this happens, the particles accelerate at almost the speed of light, forming the so-called “accretion disk”. This process increases the temperature of matter, which ends up being released into space in extremely radioactive and bright jets.

Variations of the jet emitted by the 3C 279.
Variations of the jet emitted by the 3C 279. (Credit: J.Y. Kim (MPIfR), Boston University Blazar Program (VLBA and GMVA), and Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration).

It was just one of those jets that astronomers from the Event Horizon Telescope project detected, according to the study shared by the team this Tuesday (7) on Astronomy & Astrophysics. As the scientists report, these jets are usually straight – but not in this case. For the first time, the data observed by the team shows that the matter ejected by the quasar has a twisted shape at its base.

“We knew that every time you open a new window to the universe you can find something new. Here, where we expected to find the region where the jet forms by going to the sharpest image possible, we find a kind of perpendicular structure,” Jae-Young Kim, study leader and researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, reported in a statement.

In addition, the data showed that the jet moved faster than expected – at about 20 times the speed of light. This was the result of an event known as “superluminal motion”, an optical illusion that occurs when the movement of an object is apparently faster than light.

“Transversal apparent motions of about 20 times the speed of light are difficult to reconcile with the simple understanding of a propagating relativistic jet. This suggests the presence of propagating plasma instabilities in a bent jet or internal jet rotation,” noted Thomas Krichbaum. “3C 279 was the first source in astronomy to show superluminal motions, and today, almost fifty years later, still has some surprises for us.”

In the video below, you can see the images studied by the astronomers, as well as the variations in the jet emitted by the quasar:

Related topics:

black hole Quasar

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