Monday, December 5

A bubble of hot gas in a supermassive black hole | Digital Trends Spanish


At the center of our galaxy is a huge black hole, surrounded by a swirl of glowing hot gas that forms a ring structure around the black hole itself. This structure was captured in the first image of the supermassive black hole, called Sagittarius A*, which launched earlier this year. Now scientists have discovered an oddity in this dramatic setting, detecting a bubble of hot gas orbiting the black hole and its ring structure.

Sagittarius A* and animation of the hot spot around it

As shown in this video animation, the bubble of hot gas moves around the black hole in a similar way to the way the Earth orbits the sun. This gas bubble was not seen in the Sagittarius A* image (which was captured by a collaboration called the Event Horizon Telescope), but was inferred from observations using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA).

One notable fact about the bubble is the tremendous speed at which it is moving, according to lead researcher Maciek Wielgus of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy. “We think we are seeing a hot bubble of gas orbiting Sagittarius A* in an orbit similar in size to that of the planet Mercury, but making a complete loop in only about 70 minutes,” Wielgus said in a statement. release. “This requires mind-boggling speed of about 30% of the speed of light!”

The discovery was made using data collected for the Event Horizon Telescope project, of which Wielgus and colleagues were also a part. Some of these observations captured the aftermath of an X-ray flare, thought to be caused by hot gas near the black hole. In this case, the researchers saw the flare not only at X-ray wavelengths, but also at radio wavelengths. That supports the idea of ​​a bubble of hot gas emitting flares, which can be used to study the black hole’s magnetic field.

The researchers now want to make more observations of the black hole and its environment using ALMA and the GRAVITY instrument on the Very Large Telescope, and hope to directly observe an orbiting gas bubble. This could help them understand more about the physics of extreme conditions near very large black holes.

“Hopefully, one day, we’ll feel comfortable saying we ‘know’ what’s going on in Sagittarius A*,” Wielgus said.

The research is published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

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