Spitting game (4/27/23)
Good afternoon, and happy Thursday. I’ve got a ton of space science for you this week, so let’s dive right in.
Did someone forward you this email? Subscribe to Parallax here.
A Black Hole Seen Spitting
Image: Sophia Dagnello, NRAO/AUI/NSF
It’s been four years since the first photograph of a black hole met the public eye. Now, new observations have captured that same black hole ejecting a jet of material—a phenomenon caught live in action for the first time.
Snapping photos: In 2017, astronomers focused the Event Horizon Telescope, a network of radio sensors dispersed across the Earth’s surface to act as one giant Earth-sized telescope, on the black hole at the center of galaxy M87. Two years later, the processed image—a red, fuzzy donut—captured the scientific world’s attention as the first ever direct image of a black hole.
Recently, new analysis of that same data yielded a refined image of that black hole.
To be clear, what we’re seeing in these images is light bending in the intense gravity of the black hole. We can’t see into the heart of the black hole itself (at least, not without breaking the laws of physics).
Astronomers have also captured the jet of material separately from the black hole itself, but never together in the same image showing the relationship between the two.
New profile pic: In a truly international study, researchers across the world used the Global Millimeter VLBI Array (GMVA), the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and the Greenland Telescope (GLT) as one huge virtual telescope to once again tune into the black hole at the center of the M87 galaxy.
Adding ALMA and GLT on top of the central GMVA array allowed the researchers to draw out details they couldn’t have with just one.
“Having these two telescopes [as part of] the global array resulted in a boost in angular resolution by a factor of four in the north-south direction,” Lynn Matthews, a research scientist at MIT Haystack, said in a release. “This greatly improves the level of detail we can see. And in this case, a consequence was a dramatic leap in our understanding of the physics operating near the black hole at the center of the M87 galaxy.”
Where to go from here? With this high level of detail of the black hole and jet expelling from M87*, astronomers can search for details about the physical processes occurring near the black hole.
“We plan to observe the region around the black hole at the centre of M87 at different radio wavelengths to further study the emission of the jet,” says Eduardo Ros from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy. “The coming years will be exciting, as we will be able to learn more about what happens near one of the most mysterious regions in the Universe.”
Other News from the Cosmos
It’s been a busy week, folks.
InSight, NASA’s bygone seismic Mars probe (RIP), produced data that has now led to detailed observations of the Martian core. The verdict: A smaller, denser liquid iron core than expected.
Phaethon, the unusual asteroid that’s responsible for the Geminid meteor shower, has a tail made of sodium gas—not dust, as previously suggested.
“Crinkles” in spacetime led researchers to believe that dark matter is made up of ultralight particles rather than ultramassive ones.
AAAS honored three NASA contributors—Charles Frank Bolden Jr., John Mather, and Bill Ochs—for their role in developing JWST.
Earth’s ionosphere has been modeled by researchers at the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences using 19 years of satellite data and analysis.
JWST imaged an ancient cluster of seven galaxies from just 650M years after the Big Bang.
Terbium, a rare metal, was spotted in an exoplanet’s atmosphere.
NASA retired a mineral mapping instrument, i.e. the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer (CRISM), on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Landing rockets on other planets will require an understanding of how the rocket’s exhaust plume might interact with the planet’s surface.
Exploded stars pose a higher risk to nearby planets than previously estimated, findings from the Chandra X-ray Observatory found. Damaging X-rays can damage atmospheres more than 160 light years from the explosion.
25 new repeating fast radio bursts (FRBs) have been identified, doubling the number of past observations.
Astronomers spotted a huge transient flash more than a thousand times brighter than a typical supernova (and nicknamed it “Scary Barbie”).
Gene-edited rice could have a chance of surviving the harsh, perchlorate salt-heavy Martian soil, a study found.
Quasars are ignited when galaxies collide.
The View from Mars
Ingenuity, the little Mars helicopter that could, has notched 51 flights alongside the Perseverance rover on the Red Planet. On the most recent hop, it snapped this image of the Belva Crater. And who's that in the background on the far left...?