The black hole in question is at the center of the Messier 87 galaxy and accordingly has the name M87*. It is about 6.5 billion times larger than the sun and is one of the largest ever black holes known to researchers. However, it might be most famous for the fact that it was the subject of the first-ever images of a black hole, as previously covered by The Inquisitr.
Now, M87* has another reason to grab headlines after scientists were able to measure the jets with the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Previously known as the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility, the Chandra X-ray Observatory is a telescope on a space shuttle that specifically measures X-ray emission from the hottest regions of the universe such as exploded stars, clusters of galaxies, and matter around black holes.
“This is the first time such extreme speeds by a black hole’s jet have been recorded using X-ray data,” said Ralph Kraft of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
What is particularly exciting about the findings is that they confirm that the jets are shooting out jets of particles. Though scientists had previously seen the jets at high speeds from black holes, they had previously thought they could be shock waves.
“Our work gives the strongest evidence yet that particles in M87*’s jet are actually traveling at close to the cosmic speed limit,” said co-author Brad Snios, also of the CfA.
“It’s like the Event Horizon Telescope is giving a close-up view of a rocket launcher,” said the CfA’s Paul Nulsen, another co-author of the study, “and Chandra is showing us the rockets in flight.”
Another exciting aspect of the findings is that it shows superluminal motion. The scientific phenomenon occurs when objects look like they are moving faster than light — even though that is impossible.
“One of the unbreakable laws of physics is that nothing can move faster than the speed of light,” continued Snios.
“We haven’t broken physics, but we have found an example of an amazing phenomenon called superluminal motion.”
The jet of material is moving so quickly because as a black hole sucks in material, the material swirls around to create an accretion disk. Though much of the material will enter the black hole due to its incredible force of gravity, some will instead be ejected out like a slingshot.
Meanwhile, scientists are still reeling from the discovery last month of the largest black hole ever recorded. As covered by The Inquisitr, it is estimated to be around 40 billion times the mass of the sun.