Hot gas bubble spotted spinning around Milky Way black hole

Image released by the European Southern Observatory. – AFP

PARIS: Astronomers said on Thursday they have spotted a hot bubble of gas spinning clockwise. A black hole At the center of our galaxy at “mind-blowing” speeds.

The detection of the bubble, which lived for only a few hours, is expected to provide insight into how these invisible, impenetrable, galactic monsters work.

The supermassive black hole lurks at the center of Sagittarius A*. The Milky Way It is about 27,000 light-years from Earth, and its immense gravity gives our home galaxy its characteristic spin.

The first image of Sagittarius A* was revealed in May by the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration, which combines radio dishes around the world to detect light as it disappears into the maw of black holes.

One of those dishes, the ALMA radio telescope in the Andes Mountains of Chile, picked up something “really surprising” in the Sagittarius A* data, said astrophysicist Mack Welges of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Germany.

Minutes before ALMA collected the radio data, the Chandra Space Telescope saw a “massive increase” in X-rays, Valgus told AFP.

According to a new study published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, this burst of energy, thought to be similar to solar flares on the Sun, sent a hot bubble of gas swirling around the black hole.

The gas bubble, also known as the hot spot, had an orbit similar to that of Mercury around the sun, said Wielges, lead author of the study.

But while Mercury takes 88 days to make the journey, the bubble completes it in just 70 minutes. That means it traveled about 30 percent of the speed of light.

“So it’s an absolutely, ridiculously fast spinning bubble,” Valgus said, calling it “mind-blowing.”

A MAD theory

gave The scientists were able to track the bubble through their data for about an hour and a half – it was unlikely to survive more than a few orbits before collapsing.

Velgus said the observation supported a theory known as MAD. “Mad as crazy, but also MAD like magnetically arrested discs,” he said.

This phenomenon occurs when the magnetic field at the mouth of a black hole is strong enough to prevent material from being sucked in.

But the matter continues to pile up, reaching a “flux eruption,” Welges said, which strips the magnetic fields and causes a burst of energy.

By learning how these magnetic fields work, scientists hope to build a model of the forces that govern black holes, which are shrouded in mystery.

Magnetic fields can also help determine how fast black holes spin – which could be particularly interesting for Sagittarius A*.

While Sagittarius A* is 4 million times the mass of our Sun, it only blazes with about 100 suns’ brightness, “which is very unimpressive for a supermassive black hole,” Velgus said.

“It’s the faintest supermassive black hole we’ve seen in the universe – we’ve only seen it because it’s so close to us.”

But it’s probably a good thing that there’s a “starving black hole” at the center of our galaxy, Wielges said.

“Living with a quasar,” which could glow with the power of billions of suns, “would be a terrifying thing,” he added.

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