NASA’s Hubble telescope snapped an image of the supermassive black hole at the centre of the M87 galaxy, emitting a powerful jet. The black hole is 55 million light years away and has around 6.5billion times the mass of the Sun and a diameter which is 3 million times that of Earth. In the image from NASA, a powerful jet can be seen stemming from the black hole’s core.
The jet is made via the black hole’s accretion disk, which is shooting out particles at near light speed.
Accretion disks are the materials which orbit a black hole. The friction generated by these discs as they are pushed and shoved by the extreme gravitational force is so large that it can produce a tremendous amount of energy.
Some of the materials get sucked into the black hole, while others are ejected out into space.
David Eicher, editor of Astronomy magazine, tweeted an image of the black hole, stating: “The fury of a monster black hole: This Hubble Space Telescope shot shows the jet emanating from the supermassive black hole in M87, the largest galaxy in the Virgo Cluster.
“The starlike points scattered across the image are globular clusters.”
The supermassive black hole at the centre of M87 became world-famous last year after it became the first black hole to ever be photographed.
The reason a black hole has been so hard to photograph is by their very nature, they are impossible to see, since they consume all light, making it impossible for any light from one of the entities to reach us on Earth.
The latest discovery comes after astronomers spotted a black hole which vanished and then reappeared again moments later.
The black hole’s brightness changed so swiftly in a way that scientists thought would normally take millions of years.
Erin Kara, assistant professor of physics at MIT, said: “We expect that luminosity changes this big should vary on timescales of many thousands to millions of years.
“But in this object, we saw it change by 10,000 over a year, and it even changed by a factor of 100 in eight hours, which is just totally unheard of and really mind-boggling.”
Researchers speculate the corona – the part we can see, which is found around the edges of the black hole – was destroyed, but then reformed as the vortex pulled material back to its edge, making the new corona as bright as before.
Kara added: “This seems to be the first time we’ve ever seen a corona first of all disappear, but then also rebuild itself, and we’re watching this in real-time.
“This will be really important to understanding how a black hole’s corona is heated and powered in the first place.”
The research, which was partly funded by NASA, was published in Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Kara added scientists will keep an eye on it in case any more unusual events happen.
She said: “It’s still in this unusual high-flux state, and maybe it’ll do something crazy again, so we don’t want to miss that.”
A black hole is a point in spacetime where the gravitational pull is so strong that nothing can escape, not even light – the fastest thing in the universe – as vast amounts of mass are squashed into an infinitesimal point.
There are a few ways in which a black hole can form.
Scientists believe the most common instance is when a star, thousands of times the size of our sun, collapses in on itself when it dies – known as a supernova.
Another way is when a large amount of matter, which can be in the form of a gas cloud or a star collapses in on itself through its own gravitational pull.
Finally, the collision of two neutron stars can cause a black hole.