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World’s First Glimpse of a Black Hole “Launchpad”
28 September 2012
A strange thing about black holes: they shine.
The current issue of Science features a paper by the Event Horizon telescope team – a collaboration that includes Avery Broderick, Associate Faculty at Perimeter Institute – that may shed light on the origin of the bright jets given off by some black holes. In a world first, the team has been able to look at a distant black hole and find out where its jets are launched from: the “launchpad".
Many galaxies, including our own Milky Way, have a huge black hole lurking at their cores. In about 10 percent of such galaxies, the hole gives off huge, tight streams of electrons and other sub-atomic particles traveling at nearly the speed of light. They can be so bright that they outshine the rest of the galaxy combined.
With the new data coming in, theorists like Perimeter’s Avery Broderick can begin to tell the difference between these models of hole-driven jets and accretion-driven jets. “We are now beginning to see that spin is playing a role in jet production,” says Broderick. “That is, not only can we say that the jets originate near the black hole, but because the emission region is so small, it must be coming from a rotating black hole.”
“The black hole is really the engine that drives the jet,” he adds. “It’s an extraordinary thing.”
Read more on Perimeter’s website and download a graphic of the black hole “launchpad”: