A team of astronomers captured the exact moment when a black hole launched hot material into space at nearly the speed of light.
The Chandra X-ray Observatory captured jets exploding from a black hole. The object ejected incandescent material into space that reached 80% of the speed of light.
In the video captured by NASA scientists, a portion of the hot gas in the disk around the black hole crosses the event horizon – the point of no return – and is consumed by the black hole. The other portion is ejected in opposite directions, along the lines of the magnetic field.
According to the team, the jets are slowing down as they move away from the black hole. Most of the energy from the jets is not converted into radiation, but is released when the particles interact with the surrounding material. These interactions can be the cause of the slowdown.
The new images are based on four observations obtained with Chandra in November 2018 and February, May, and June 2019. The scientific article with the results was recently published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Astronomers estimate that the mass ejected from the black hole corresponds to about 500 million times the mass of the Empire State Building, a 102-story skyscraper in midtown Manhattan, New York.
To date, this type of high-speed ejection from stellar black holes has only been observed twice. The black hole and its companion star form a system called MAXI J1820+070, located about 10,000 light-years from Earth. The mass of the black hole is about eight times that of the Sun, while the star is almost half the mass of our star.