A composite image of Centaurus A, revealing plasma jets emanating from the galaxy’s central black hole. ESO/WFI; MPIfR/ESO/APEX/A.Weiss et al.; NASA/CXC/CfA/R.Kraft et al.
The most detailed image of the heart of the Centaurus A galaxy and the energetic jets of matter that shoot out of the black hole was obtained by the International Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) team, in the In which Laurent Raymond Loinard, from the Institute of Radioastronomy and Astrophysics of the UNAM, participates.
Renowned for capturing the first image of a black hole in the Messier 87 (M87) galaxy, the EHT as part of its work also studies the black hole that resides in the center of the Milky Way and other relatively nearby active galaxies, according to a statement from UNAM.
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“The type of science we do with these objects is very different from that done with M87 or Sagittarius A, where we seek to see the shadow caused by the black hole; in the case of Centaurus A and other active galaxies, what interests us is to see the jets that these objects generate ”, said the also collaborator of the study.
In this case, the image presented in the journal Nature Astronomy focuses on the jets emitted by the black hole in the center of Centaurus A and it was shown that only the edges of the jet appear to emit radiation, which represents a challenge for theoretical models. on the behavior of this type of objects.
“What we see is something similar to the walls of a cone, we only see the edge, the central part is not seen and that tells us a lot about the distribution of density, the magnetic field and the temperature of the jet, which sets limits. for theoretical models that try to explain this, ”Loinard noted.
Centaurus A emits mainly radio waves and is located 15 million light years from Earth, so it is considered relatively close. It is one of the objects studied with the largest telescope in the world, added the researcher.
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The supermassive black holes that reside in the center of galaxies like Centaurus A feed on gas and dust that come to them by their gravitational pull. At the same time, part of the particles that approach it escape from the gravitational attraction and are thrown far into space in the form of jets, one of the most mysterious and energetic structures in the Universe.
“Located in the southern hemisphere, Centaurus A is the fifth brightest in the night sky and for amateurs it is one of the most sought after objects because even with a relatively small telescope it can be found,” added the university specialist.
After being identified as one of the main emitters of radio waves in 1949, it has been studied extensively with observatories that review the electromagnetic spectrum such as radio, infrared, optical, X-rays, and gamma rays.
The black hole that resides in the center has a mass 55 million times greater than our Sun and with the EHT, the largest in the world, the experts obtained images of the innermost part of the gigantic jet that emanates from there, which, compared With previous observations in high resolution, it has a level of sharpness ten times higher than that recorded so far.
Astronomers have created different theoretical models of the behavior of matter near the black hole to try to understand this process, but it is not yet known exactly how they are born or what triggers jets of energy and matter to be launched from the center of a black hole and how they can spread out to be larger than their own galaxies.