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Astronomers from the Chandra X-ray Observatory of NASA have captured a black hole located about 10,000 light years from the Earth releasing hot material into space near the speed of light. The massive outbreak has been described in “The Astrophysical Journal Letters”.

The black hole and its companion star forming a system called MAXI J1820 + 070. The first, formed by the destruction of a massive star, has a mass approximately eight times greater than that of the Sun. Nothing to do with the so-called supermassive black holes, which contain millions or billions of times the mass of our sun.

For its part, the unfortunate companion star that orbits the black hole has about half the mass of the Sun. The strong gravity well’s cosmic boots the material of the star. Part of it will cross the so-called event horizon (the point of no return) and will fall in the hole, but another part will be expelled in a couple of bundles short of material. These jets pointing in opposite directions, launched from outside the event horizon along magnetic field lines.

That is precisely what you see in the video, a few images based on four observations obtained with Chandra in November 2018, and February, may and June of 2019. The image optical and infrared of the Milky Way was obtained by the optical telescope PanSTARRS in Hawaii, with the location of MAXI J1820 + 070 on the plane of the galaxy is marked by a cross. The inset shows a film that runs through the four observations of Chandra, where “day 0” corresponds to the first observation the 13 of November of 2018, approximately four months after the launch of the jet. MAXI J1820 + 070 is the glowing source of X-rays in the center of the image and you can see X-ray sources away from the black hole in jets toward the north and the south. The jet of the south is too weak to be detected in the observations of may and June of 2019.

An illusion of speed

From the perspective of the Earth, it seems that the blast of the north is moving at 60% the speed of light, while southern travels to a 160% of the speed of light, which seems impossible!

As explained by the researchers, this is an example of movement superluminal , a phenomenon that occurs when something travels toward us near the speed of light, in a direction close to our line of sight. This means that the object travels almost as fast toward us as the light that it generates, giving the illusion that the movement of the jet is faster than the speed of light. In the case of MAXI J1820 + 070, the jet of the south is pointing towards us and the north is pointing away from us, so that the south seems to be moving faster than the north. The actual speed of the particles in both streams is over 80% of the speed of light.

Previously, we have only seen two other examples of expulsions at high speed in X-rays of stellar-mass black holes. MAXI J1820 + 070 has also been observed in the radio wavelengths by a team from the University of Oxford who previously reported the detection of motion superluminal sources compact based only on data of radio that spread from the launch of the jets and the 7 July 2018 to the end of 2018.


The observations combined also included evidence that the jets are slowing down as you move away from the black hole. The greater part of the energy in the jets is not converted into radiation, but which is released when the particles in the jets interact with the surrounding material. These interactions can be the cause of the deceleration of the aircraft. When the jets collide with the surrounding material in the interstellar space, it produced shock waves, similar to the explosive sound caused by supersonic airplanes. This process generates energies of particles that are higher than those of the Large hadron Collider.

The researchers estimate that around 180 billion pounds of material were expelled from the black hole in these two jets launched in July of 2018. This amount of mass is comparable to that which might accumulate in the disk around the black hole in the space of a few hours, and is equivalent to approximately a thousand comets Halley or approximately 500 million times the mass of the Empire State Building.